Former Hong Kong Legislator to Receive Award For Distinction in International Law
Dennis W.H. Kwok will receive the New York State Bar Association International Section’s Award for Distinction in International Law and Affairs for his eight years of work as a pro-democracy legislator representing the legal profession in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
The award will be presented at the New York State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting on Wednesday Jan. 26. Kwok and his fellow pro-democracy legislators held back the Chinese government’s push to force the once free city into lockstep with its political ideology using the meager legislative tools at their disposal.
“The rule of law, democracy, and human rights are under threat around the world,” said International Section Chair Ed Lenci. “At considerable risk to himself, Dennis was a leading advocate for the rule of law, greater democracy, and respect for human rights in Hong Kong.”
Kwok utilized the filibuster to challenge the pro government faction and its attempts to further strip power from the democratic majority. Kwok’s actions drew the ire of the Chinese government, which banned him from running for office in 2020 as part of China’s larger efforts to force political conformity on the city.
Kwok fled to Canada with his family following the ruling by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to disqualify Kwok and three other pro-democracy legislators from office. Fifteen other members of the body resigned in solidarity.
In 2020, China instituted a sweeping national security law that saw protesters arrested, newspaper editors detained, school curriculum revamped, and property seized.
During his time on the council, Kwok battled human trafficking, advocated for respect for human rights in Hong Kong, and actively pressed the international community for support. He and his allies also successfully lobbied the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for better ESG disclosure requirements concerning forced labor practices in supply chains.
Kwok joined Georgetown University’s Asian Studies Program as a distinguished scholar in August 2021. In his private legal practice, Kwok specializes in cross-border commercial disputes and international arbitration. He is the recipient of the 2021 Commonwealth Law Conference Rule of Law Award bestowed by the Commonwealth Lawyers Association. Kwok is a resident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
Honoring attorneys who render extraordinary service to the public and the profession is part of NYSBA’s Annual Meeting tradition. The 145th Annual Meeting will focus on more than 65 different topics from Jan. 18 to 28. Subjects include Law and Ethics during the Pandemic: Individual Rights vs the Common Good; New York State’s Surprise Billing Law Against the Backdrop of the Federal No Surprises Act; New York Energy Leadership: Can NY Become a Hub for the Energy Industry?; and Prosecutors and the Color of Justice: The Role of the Prosecutor in Reforming the Criminal Justice System.
The Presidential Summit on Thursday, Jan. 20, will focus on two of the leading social justice and civil rights matters of the day: a reevaluation of the #MeToo Movement, and the intersection of transgender rights and sports. Attorney General Letitia James will provide the keynote address.
Other featured speakers at the Annual Meeting include Court of Appeals Judge Anthony Cannataro; Lily Batchelder, assistant secretary for tax policy, Department of the Treasury; and retired Court of Appeals Judge Leslie Stein, director of the Government Law Center at Albany Law School.
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About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.