Bradley: Reporting human trafficking made difficult.

In the past few weeks I have had a number of conversations with a range of kind professionals and I value all the friendly suggestions I am given. What has however become increasingly clear is that the human trafficking problem in Hong Kong is far worse than people thought as well as the impact on free speech and the quality of the rule of law, says Samantha Bradley.

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One indicator of this is that the legal profession in Hong Kong is not effectively supervised: there is a fear to report misconduct and a willingness to accept pay offs to conceal misconduct.

This is a perversion of the course of justice having regard to the case-law and I am not alone in that view, which is shared by lawyers more senior and technically qualified than me. Proper regulation normally means it is treated as a civil matter by regulators and not criminally prosecuted in practice, but undoubtedly it could be and in some cases should be. Integrity and accountability of legal professionals and fiduciaries is absolutely core and central to the rule of law and the effective operation of a civilised society and legitimate wealth management structures.

Legislation in Hong Kong is running woefully behind other parts of the world in terms of the issue of labour protection and that affects the quality of wealth management structures to ensure high levels of integrity, especially in an environment without regulation of trustees.

When lawyers, clients of lawyers and others combine to prevent proper accountability and the proper operation of the rule of law, they present the Hobbesian truth of a society that, without adherence to the social compact and the rule of law, is brutish and shortened for some people and a stain on the moral conscience of others (if they have one).

My views on this are steadfast and I have refused a very large pay-off indeed that came with the condition of concealing misconduct I was legally obliged to report as a solicitor and fiduciary. I have rejected the offer not for commercial gain. I have done it from principle and duty and indeed I would much rather be having a quiet life communing with nature and my books in my garden with my loved ones.

One cannot easily help clients who are receiving conflicted advice, and who you also cannot advise owing to conflict, except to point them in the direction of independent advice. Sometimes that is what you have to do. I had a case where that was being discouraged by the individuals who feared the consequences of that independent advice. Unfortunately finding good quality independent advice is also not always easy in a profession where fees rather professionalism seem to dominate in many quarters.

I guess some might say I am an old-fashioned solicitor and trustee. Indeed I am positively conservative in some of my values. That is strange because in my life many would say I am remarkably modern ... I think the fallacy is to think conservatism, strong religious values and integrity are incompatible with business and professionalism.

They are not.

Samantha Bradley is on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/samantha-bradley-94773241/

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