Martin Rogers of US law firm Davis Polk withdraws from Hong Kong national security law forum following criticism

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The president for Asia of the American law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell has withdrawn from a Hong Kong forum on national security law following criticism that it was an “event of propaganda”.

Partner Martin Rogers said in a LinkedIn post on Saturday that his agreement to participate did not reflect any support for the topics discussed: “I have been invited to speak and have accepted the invitation, as an individual, to the alongside other independent experts on specific issues, including procedural challenges that may arise in connection with national security law and the laws of other jurisdictions.

Martin Rogers, Asia Manager for Davis Polk. Photo: LinkedIn.

“My agreement to participate did not reflect an endorsement or endorsement of the topics discussed or the individuals or organizations involved,” he added. However, Rogers openly expressed support for the security law at a previous government forum.

The National Security Law Legal Forum: Thrive With Security event is scheduled to take place on Saturday and is hosted by the Department of Justice. Rogers was to join a panel titled Comparative Study of National Security Law Cases and National Security Cases in Foreign Jurisdictions.

In a post on LinkedIn last week, he tagged his law firm and said it was his honor to attend the event to commemorate the second anniversary of the Security Act.

Saturday’s forum will be opened by Director General Carrie Lam, and National Security Department Chief Zheng Yanxiong will deliver a speech titled From Chaos to Order – National Security Law as a Model Example of Rule of Law. . Other speakers include Chief Financial Officer Paul Chan, Deputy Police Commissioner (National Security) Edwina Lau, Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng and China Liaison Office deputies Chen Dong and Wang Linggui.

Photo: GovHK and LinkedIn.

Samuel Bickett, a US attorney who was forced out of Hong Kong after serving time in prison for the 2019 protests, asked how Davis Polk approved the event.

“Lawyers can and should provide feedback on [security law] at professional and academic conferences, but that’s not what this event is about. It’s a propaganda event intended to validate the NSL as “just another law”, and [Davis Polk] is used as a tool in the service of this goal,” he said on Twitter last Friday.

Later, he tweeted: “I hope international law firms will carefully review their human rights monitoring procedures around the world. What are your lawyers doing on behalf of your firm that you don’t know about? »

However, lawmaker Regina Ip denounced the removal: “If that’s not a double standard to muzzle Rogers’ free speech, what is?” she said in a Tweet on Saturday.

File photo: GovHK.

Davis Polk is a New York-based international law firm founded in 1849. The firm did not respond to questions from HKFP about whether it was concerned about criticism, supported the Security Act and if he was worried that his partner would appear alongside Hong Kong. U.S. government-sanctioned officials.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – after a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalized subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces, and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption of transportation and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming Democrats, civil society groups and business partners, as these laws have been widely used to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

Rogers welcomes safety law

Rogers participated in a previous government forum on the security law and expressed support for the legislation. In a video for the Justice Department’s Inclusive Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Office last July, he hailed the law as a “very important and positive” framework for maintaining Hong Kong’s status, and “very standard ” in relation to such laws abroad.

He asserted that “rule of law means respect for the law” and said that Beijing and Hong Kong had done a good job in terms of transparency.

The removal of Davis Polk’s partner echoed an incident last October when US law firm Mayer Brown stepped down from representing the University of Hong Kong in its decision to remove a memorial to the Tiananmen crackdown. The company pulled out of the deal after a week of international pressure.

When HKFP asked the Justice Department for a reaction to Rogers’ withdrawal, whether he would be replaced, and if they were given a reason for his withdrawal, a spokesperson said, “The forum will be held as scheduled.”

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