Candidate leaves the Hong Kong lawyers group over fears

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On Saturday (Aug 21), a Hong Kong council member of a professional body of attorneys suspended his campaign for re-election next week, citing concerns for his and his family’s safety.
The Law Society elections, which take place Tuesday, are a professional body and regulator for 12,000 solicitors. Critics say the legal system in the global financial hub is under pressure from China’s national security law. Although Hong Kong and Beijing officials have dismissed these worries, pro-Beijing media and senior municipal officials have scrutinized the traditionally low-key polls.
Since Britain handed Hong Kong to China in 1997, Beijing has increased its grip over the former territory. Last year, a national security law sent shivers through Hong Kong, leading to the detention of scores of pro-democracy lawmakers and activists, as well as the disbandment of the city’s teachers’ union and civil rights organizations.
“I am declaring my desire to withdraw my name as a candidate for my safety and the safety of my family,” the lawyer, Mr. Jonathan Ross, said in a statement, without elaborating on the risks that prompted the unusual move.
“It is a disgraceful and sad day for Hong Kong that an election for our honourable institution’s council has descended to this level.”
“Anyone who has reason to fear that his or her safety is threatened may approach the police for assistance,” a government spokeswoman told Reuters in response to e-mailed concerns.
While the Law Society is considered more conservative than the Bar Association of Barristers, both organizations have historically served as watchdogs over legal reforms. They are represented on a body that recommends judges’ appointments. Four of the 11 candidates in Tuesday’s election are deemed outspoken, which has some government officials concerned about a developing political trend.

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