Davis Polk & Wardwell’s Asia head has withdrawn from an engagement to speak at a high-profile event meant to commemorate the second anniversary of the national security law in Hong Kong after heavy criticism.
Hong Kong partner Martin Rogers had been due to speak at the “National Security Law Legal Forum – Thrive with Security” event, which is taking place on May 28, organised by the Department of Justice and led by the Secretary of Justice and former Des Voeux Chambers lawyer, Teresa Cheng SC.
Rogers was meant to speak on the 90-minute “Comparative Study of Cases under the National Security Law and National Security Cases in Foreign Jurisdiction” panel alongside moderator and a law professor at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) Simon Young, and panellists Ian Cross, also a professor at the HKU, and Robert Lee SC of Cheng Huan SC Chambers.
On May 18, Rogers, who was going to be the only international private practice lawyer speaking at the event, announced his participation by posting a statement and the event agenda with a registration link on his social media profile on LinkedIn. That post attracted criticism and a Financial Times report last week published criticisms over his participation from Samuel Bickett, a lawyer and activist previously based in Hong Kong, and Donald Clarke, a Chinese law professor at George Washington University Law School.
Two days later, Rogers published another statement to say that he has withdrawn his participation.
“I have decided to withdraw from speaking at the May 28 National Security Law Legal Forum, an event organized by the Department of Justice and the Asian Academy of International Law,” Rogers’ statement read.
“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. My agreement to participate did not reflect an endorsement or support of any topics discussed or individuals or organizations involved,” the statement added.
The event was marketed on the Davis Polk’s website, but the page has now been removed.
Davis Polk did not respond to request for comment at time of publication.
Rogers was a high profile hire for Davis Polk in 2012. He joined the firm with another partner James Wadham from Clifford Chance and helped the firm launch its litigation practice. At Clifford Chance, Rogers was the firm’s head of Asia Pacific disputes practice and co-head of its regional financial regulatory practice.
The hire of Rogers took place at around the same time as China began launching its crackdown on corruption in the country. His practice, particularly in investigations, financial regulatory and white-collar defence matters, flourished as President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crusade continued from 2013 and ensnared high-ranking numerous officials and executives.
According to Rogers’ biography on Davis Polk’s website, Rogers “has a strong relationship with the regulators in Hong Kong”. He conducts regulatory investigations into allegations of corruption, market misconduct, money laundering and sanctions-related violations.
Rogers was appointed head of Asia at Davis Polk in 2019. He succeeded William Barron, who has led the firm’s practice in Asia since 1993.
The national security law in Hong Kong, passed in June 2020, has created significant conflicts in the legal sector. Earlier this year, U.K. Supreme Court president Lord Robert Reed and his colleague Lord Patrick Hodge resigned from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal over the threat to civil freedoms posed by the NSL.
In the same month, former Hong Kong Bar Association chairman Paul Harris left Hong Kong hurriedly after meeting with Hong Kong national security authorities and local police.
Last year, Mayer Brown also suffered the public’s wrath when it issued a legal letter to the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China and its liquidators, ordering that a renowned sculpture that has been standing on the campus of HKU for over two decades be removed. After facing media scrutiny and political pressure, Mayer Brown withdrew its representation of HKU on the matter but was then accused of political interference.