The Hong Kong Bar Association will lead a 20-member delegation to meet with the mainland government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, as well as key legal and legislative organs of the CCP. In the past, the Hong Kong Bar has sent academic and political delegations to the mainland, but such exchanges have been suspended until recently after prominent human rights lawyer Philip Dykes and Paul Harris, both former Bar chairmen, voiced concerns about the National Security Law and the erosion of Hong Kong’s legal institutions.
In an attempt to reassure aspiring barristers, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Xia Baolong proclaimed that Hong Kong’s independent bar and common law system would remain as integral fixtures of the city’s identity. Victor Dawes, current Chairman of HKBA, has told the South China Morning Post that the Hong Kong Bar delegates would raise concerns about the National Security Law and Article 23, as well as related Western sanctions, to their mainland counterparts.
The resumption of political and academic exchanges between the Hong Kong Bar Association and the CCP demonstrates the degree to which room for dissent in Hong Kong has narrowed since 2019. In light of these developments, international businesses, especially global law firms, should be highly aware of the political pressures that exist in the new authoritarian Hong Kong. As Hong Kong rapidly grows politically and economically closer to mainland China, even previously independent organizations like the Hong Kong Bar Association will face incentives that lead them towards closer relations with the CCP. Given the CCP’s recent centralization of oversight over Hong Kong, these incentives are unlikely to change.