Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, a former president of the Law Society, thinks Yam “wants to participate in politics” but does not think the establishment of the Progressive Lawyers Group highlights problems with the Law Society.
Ho, who organised a counter-protest to support Beijing’s white paper when 1,800 members of the legal profession staged a silent march against it, insists that the 107-year-old organisation is an open platform for all members, including liberal and progressive lawyers, to share their opinions.
He adds that the Law Society has no problem with the discussion of social issues as long it is done from a legal point of view. For instance, it opposed government proposals to bar lawmakers from standing in by-elections after they resigned to trigger a de facto referendum on electoral reform on the grounds it would undermine citizens’ constitutional rights.
From Yam’s motion to the formation of the Progressive Lawyers’ Group, it seems the legal sector is split into two opposing camps. Ho says this phenomenon is not confined to the legal sector, and that such divisions are essential for a society to develop.
Another profession that appears to be split is the medical sector. On October 21, last year, newspapers published a petition signed by 641 doctors against police brutality during the Umbrella Movement. A week later, another group of 550 doctors published a petition describing the movement as a “cancer” and supporting the police in the enforcement of the law.
The group of young doctors who initiated the first petition formed a concern group, called Médecins Inspirés, in December. They believe that doctors can actively participate in politics, as long as patients’ interests are not affected.
Alfred Wong Yam-hong, a 33-year-old core member of the group, says its members believe that a fair electoral system is indispensable because they see how health policies can fail patients when government is not fully accountable.
As a cardiologist, Wong is dissatisfied with the treatment protocol for heart attack patients in public hospitals, which he believes lags behind other developed societies. “To alleviate this problem, we need a sound political system, an electoral justice system to truly hold our government’s leaders accountable to citizens,” Wong says.