Former Hong Kong leader calls for boycott of Mayer Brown over Tiananmen conflict – .

Former Hong Kong leader calls for boycott of Mayer Brown over Tiananmen conflict – .

The former Hong Kong leader has called on Chinese companies to boycott Mayer Brown after the US law firm stopped representing a local university seeking to remove a memorial to the Tiananmen Square massacre from its campus.

“I call for a boycott of Mayer Brown across China. The company owes Hong Kong a full account of its decision to cease acting for the University of Hong Kong and the foreign interventions that led to that decision, ”CY Leung told the Financial Times on Sunday.

“No customer in Hong Kong or mainland China, especially those with dealings with the Chinese government, will find Mayer Brown reliable. “

The attack on Leung, the former Hong Kong managing director, illustrated the conflicting pressures Western companies face in China, where Beijing demands their support for its repressive policies, but it earns the opprobrium of Western governments.

The Chicago-based law firm has come under heavy criticism from US lawmakers for its role in representing the University of Hong Kong, which this month ordered the removal of the “Pillar of Shame.” Eight-meter tall Danish artist Jens Galschiot. The sculpture, which was erected in 1997, commemorates the Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing in 1989.

CY Leung, former Hong Kong chief executive, accused Mayer Brown of complying with US political pressure © Bloomberg

Leung, who is also vice chairman of the national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a mainland political advisory body, accused Mayer Brown of giving in to American political pressure after announcing that he would no longer represent the university in this matter.

Beijing’s introduction of a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong last year crushed most public dissent protests, including at universities, which authorities accused of fueling political radicalism during 2019 anti-government protests in the city.

The law firm sent a letter this month on behalf of the university to an organization in Hong Kong that previously held the city’s annual Tiananmen Vigil and was held responsible for the sculpture. The group disbanded last month after its leaders were detained on security grounds.

Mayer Brown’s letter demanded that the “pillar of shame” be removed by October 13.

In response, 28 civil society groups signed an open letter calling on Mayer Brown to step down from university representation, citing the importance of protecting “corporate integrity in defending the right to liberty. expression ”. Republican U.S. senators, including Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, have also condemned the company.

Mayer Brown, who merged with local firm Johnson Stokes & Master in 2008, initially defended his representation of the university, saying the dispute was simply a real estate issue.

But on Friday, the company backed down, saying: “In the future, Mayer Brown will no longer represent his long-time client in this matter. “

The FT has contacted Mayer Brown with a request for comment.

The removal of the sculpture was delayed because Galschiot, who claimed ownership of it, sought legal representation in Hong Kong.

Beijing has increasingly called on companies to vocally support its policies in Hong Kong. Local conglomerates and foreign banks publicly supported the security law when it was introduced in June 2020.

LinkedIn announced last week that it would be shutting down its main service in China, where it had 54 million users.

Some academics have also told the FT that self-censorship has increased under threat from the security law, with many fearing that they will be reported to authorities or targeted by pro-Beijing media and face legal and professional consequences. .

Teachers said the expected removal of the “pillar of shame” was another sign that academic freedom was being compromised.

“Academics are afraid,” said one professor. “Some are afraid to say things in class that they might say differently because they might be taken out of context. “

Video: How the National Security Law is Changing Hong Kong


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