The Home Affairs Bureau holds a “Recognition scheme for the provision of pro bono legal services. Several Refugee Union members were honored to be invited by a lawyer to attend the award presentation ceremony where the voluntary work of almost 300 lawyers was publicly recognized.
It came as a surprise that indeed Hong Kong Government recognizes the noble effort of lawyers who help the underprivileged to access justice. One only has to consider China where the legal sector and the Government are often in confrontation that result in crackdowns and detention of some lawyers considered enemies of the state. By contrast, Hong Kong is an excellent example of the government encouraging voluntary work to help the vulnerable.
It was an impressive display of humanitarianism. The majority of recipients were Chinese who offered a considerable amount of their professional time to assist the needy and the poor in the community. One would have imagined that most of the recipients would be foreign lawyers. I was impressed by the composition, noting however that only 25 hours are required to qualify.
For refugees such invitations are rare to come. Nonetheless our community knows very well and appreciate the importance of pro bono legal assistance. We owe these lawyers countless gratitude, as without them the asylum environment would be more repressive. With the help of these learned friends, refugees continued to make significant progress pushing the envelope in the name of justice.
With the assistance of the legal fraternity, refugees have not shied away from fighting and advocating for their often trampled upon rights. Further, the Refugee Union has provided a platform where we can freely articulate issues affecting our community. Despite our dubious immigration status, unionized refugees are taking legal advice on countering harsh government policies aimed at shackling us in destitution and despair.
We challenge government policies in the courts with at times positive results. Therefore on this day refugees applauded the lawyers of the Hong Kong Bar Association and Law Society who have over the years offered their voluntary services to advise and protect refugees.
The Refugee Union expresses its heartfelt gratitude to all lawyers who offer pro bono services.