24 March 2019
Philip Dykes said the decision was made after Peking University blocked association members Hectar Pun (inset, left) and Cheung Yiu-leung from teaching the course. Photo: HKEJ
Philip Dykes said the decision was made after Peking University blocked association members Hectar Pun (inset, left) and Cheung Yiu-leung from teaching the course. Photo: HKEJ

Bar association suspends legal course at Peking University

The Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) has decided to suspend call a common law course taught by its members at Peking University, chairman Philip Dykes said.

In a letter to HKBA members on Monday, Dykes, who assumed his post in January, said the decision was made after the university barred two of the instructors from the association, who are barristers, from teaching the course, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The university did not give any reason for refusing the two instructors. 

In early May Dykes asked for a letter of invitation from the university so that he could apply for a visa and go to Beijing to attend a closing ceremony for the course and understand what exactly happened.

But the university, according to Dykes, called him one or two days after the invitation was sent and gave the message that he must not come, also without providing any explanation.

In light of such development, Dykes said the Bar Council considered the unexplained rejection of himself and the two lecturers unacceptable and therefore decided to suspend the common law course indefinitely, with Dykes writing to the university to express its disappointment.

In response, Peking University’s law school Professor Jiang Shigong, organizer of the course, told RTHK that Dykes might have misunderstood the situation because the closing ceremony had been canceled for the purpose of keeping things simple.

Jiang said he felt strange and regrettable about the HKBA’s decision on suspending academic cooperation between it and the university.

He said none of the arrangements had anything to do with the political stance of Dykes, who is known for advocating preservation of human rights, and whether the course will resume will depend on the Bar Council’s attitude.

The course has been taught for eight years and the two rejected instructors are understood to be senior counsel Hectar Pun Hei and junior counsel Cheung Yiu-leung.

Pun had represented former Youngspiration lawmaker Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang in the localist’s application for judicial review of the High Court’s decision to disqualify him from taking office over his improper oath-taking in 2016.

Cheung was a founding member of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, who had urged Beijing many times to stop suppressing human rights lawyers.

Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, who represents the legal sector, said he believed Dykes’ political stance was not why the university refused his request to go there.

Kwok pointed out the university has been interfering with the curriculum for the course one or two years ago, although he did not see any political factor behind the interference.

Meanwhile, Dykes told HKEJ that so far no one has told him that he is not allowed to enter the mainland as he is scheduled to lead a delegation to attend a forum in Guangzhou next week.

While declining to speculate why the university rejected his visit, the HKBA chairman believed the central government was not involved in the matter, adding that his association has no plans to form a group to visit Beijing this year after it did last year.

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