Davis Polk’s Asia head withdraws from conference on Hong Kong security law

Agreement to participate ‘did not reflect an endorsement’ of topics, says veteran partner
The anti-National Security Law protest in Hong Kong on 24 May

A demonstration against the national security law before its introduction PaulWong/Shutterstock

Davis Polk & Wardwell’s head of Asia, Martin Rogers, has withdrawn from a controversial engagement to speak at an event commemorating the second anniversary of the introduction of the national security law in Hong Kong.

The move comes after the Financial Times yesterday highlighted Rogers’ participation in the conference, which is being organised by the department of justice with the tag line ‘Thrive With Security’.

Details of the speaking engagement, on 28 May, have also been removed from Davis Polk’s website.

Condemned by western democracies, the national security law was imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing on 30 June 2020, bringing the ongoing pro-democracy protests to an abrupt halt thanks to the sweeping powers it granted to China’s national security agency.

In March, the two UK Supreme Court judges with seats in Hong Kong’s Final Court of Appeal resigned over the administration’s departure from ‘values of political freedom and freedom of expression’.

‘I was invited to speak, and accepted the invitation, in my individual capacity alongside other independent experts on specific matters including procedural challenges that could arise related to the national security law and laws in other jurisdictions,’ Rogers wrote in a post on LinkedIn. ‘My agreement to participate did not reflect an endorsement or support of any topics discussed or individuals or organisations involved.’

Rogers' withdrawal from the conference was welcomed by activist and former Hong Kong-based corporate lawyer Samuel Bickett who, in a LinkedIn post, called on international law firms to tighten their ‘oversight procedures’ across the world.

Bickett noted the affair’s similarity with last year’s controversy surrounding Mayer Brown’s role advising on the removal of a statue commemorating pro-democracy protesters killed during the Tiananmen Square massacre.

On that occasion, Mayer Brown withdrew from the mandate after it became public, a move that was in turn criticised by influential supporters of the regime.

Rogers is a veteran Hong Kong lawyer having joined Davis Polk in 2013 from Clifford Chance. He advises on litigation, dispute resolution, regulatory and white collar defence matters. 

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