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Beijing critics win joint human rights award
A reporter running for cover as tear gas canisters explode during clashes with anti-Extradition Bill protesters in Hong Kong last June Pic: Shutterstock

04 Sep 2019 / international Print

Lawyers critical of Beijing win human rights award

The lawyer known as the ‘father of Hong Kong democracy’ has won an International Bar Association (IBA) award.

Martin Lee SC JP, (small picture) together with Dr Margaret Ng, have been named winners of the IBA ‘Outstanding Contribution by a Legal Practitioner to Human Rights’ award. The IBA citation reads: “Both have demonstrated tireless dedication to the protection of human rights and the pursuit of justice”.

The awards will be presented on Thursday 26 September during the IBA Annual Conference in Seoul, South Korea.


This year marks the first time since the introduction of the award in 1995 that it has been bestowed jointly.

Mr Lee has devoted his life to the advancement of human rights and democratic ideals in his native Hong Kong. Called to the Hong Kong Bar in 1966, he was subsequently appointed Queen’s Counsel, and later became the founding chairman of the United Democrats of Hong Kong.

In 1985, Mr Lee served on the drafting committee for Hong Kong’s Basic Law, helping to shape what would become the territory’s post-handover constitution.

He openly criticised the Beijing government’s role in the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, and more recently has spoken out against the controversial Hong Kong extradition law.

Freedom of speech

Dr Ng has similarly dedicated much of her career to the protection of human rights and freedom of speech in Hong Kong.

Called to the Hong Kong Bar in 1988, the barrister and journalist was one of the founding members of the Basic Law Article 23 Concern Group. Article 23 called for the prohibition of perceived acts of treason against the Central People’s Government, the chief administrative authority of the People’s Republic of China. Following huge demonstrations in the region, the bill was withdrawn.

‘Founding father of legal aid’

The 2019 IBA Pro Bono Award winner Cecil Rajendra is a Malaysian lawyer with a passion for poetry and human rights.

Described by his nominator as “‘the founding father of legal aid”‘, Mr Rajendra has been a staunch advocate of human rights, and has striven to improve access to justice for all throughout his career.

In 2000, he launched the country’s first mobile legal aid clinic (MOBLAC), parking in popular night markets across Penang to encourage local people to engage with the legal system and to understand their rights.

Global voice

The IBA is the global voice of the legal profession and the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. It was established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, with the aim of contributing to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

Its membership comprises more than 80,000 international lawyers from most of the world’s leading law firms, and some 190 bar associations and law societies spanning more than 170 countries.

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