HK Bar Association looking into whether former government prosecutor had violated professional code

10-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s professional body for barristers will investigate if a former government prosecutor has breached its code of conduct, after she allegedly attacked local judges for siding with anti-government protesters on her personal Facebook account.

Legal sources said the Bar Association had launched an inquiry against barrister Vivien Chan Man-wai after an opposition politician filed complaints about her.

An investigator from the association’s standing committee on discipline will be appointed whenever a complaint is received, a source said.

Chan had been assigned as a prosecutor by the Department of Justice in some cases after she left the prosecution division and went into private practice. She recently helped the department convict ousted lawmaker Au Nok-hin of assaulting a police officer by shouting through a loudspeaker and causing hearing loss for the officer.

But it emerged on Wednesday that Chan had allegedly issued strongly worded criticisms against the judiciary on her personal Facebook account, among other remarks that had also condemned the vocal Bar Association and pan-democratic lawmakers since social unrest gripped the city last year.

“The bias and unfairness of numerous judges have already severely damaged Hong Kong’s rule of law, safety and freedom,” Chan wrote last Thursday after a 22-year-old man charged with assaulting police in Sha Tin Plaza was granted bail.

“Talking about tolerating violence, Hong Kong judges are second to none. Thank you judges for granting the chaos in Hong Kong today,” another post from Chan’s Facebook on October 7 read.

“Rioters! Bar Association and judges who supported them are all scumbags!” she wrote in an October 16 post.

She had also expressed support for police and called protesters “cockroaches”.

The bias and unfairness of numerous judges have already severely damaged Hong Kong’s rule of law, safety and freedom

Barrister Vivien Chan

District councillor Ramon Yuen Hoi-man from the Democratic Party said Chan’s strong political stance made her unfit to be a prosecuting counsel.

“Based on previous reports, the perception seems that Chan just wanted to prosecute Au at all costs.”

He also alleged that Chan had violated the Bar’s Code of Conduct with her online remarks against judges.

According to the code, every barrister has a duty not to engage in acts which are “likely to bring the profession of barrister into disrepute or otherwise diminish public confidence in the profession of barrister”.

The Bar Association said in a reply to the Post’s queries that it was currently considering the complaints. “According to the Association’s policy, no comment will be made when the investigation is ongoing,” it said.

According to the justice department’s publications in 2011 and 2012, part of Chan’s role was to advise the police’s Complaints Against Police Office on alleged police misconduct.

“I will not accept any interviews,” Chan said when contacted by the Post on Wednesday. She did not respond to further inquiries.

The Department of Justice said there is an established complaint mechanism and would not comment about Chan’s case, citing ongoing legal proceedings. In general terms, lawyers are chosen on the charge, expertise in a specific area, years of experience and availability, the department added.

The judiciary declined to comment.

According to procedure, a barrister could be warned or in a more serious case, be suspended from practice if a breach of professional standard is established by a disciplinary inquiry by the Barristers Disciplinary Tribunal.

Former Bar Association chair Alan Leong Ka-kit said there was a prima facie case that Chan had brought the profession into disrepute by attacking judges, calling it “totally unacceptable”.

He also referred to one post by Chan last July which criticised Au and another opposition lawmaker during the stand-off with police, where Chan called the pair “black hands behind the scene in destroying Hong Kong”.

Leong said the Department of Justice must explain why Chan was chosen to handle Au’s case, as under the professional code, lawyers should present the case fairly instead of securing conviction at all costs.

“There are at least 1,400 practising barristers in Hong Kong, putting aside there are also many government counsel, why choose Vivien Chan? Unless… you’re looking at someone who’s biased against the accused,” Leong said.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post