Paul Harris SC

Barrister | Called 1976

Oliver Woolhouse


Paul Harris is an immensely experienced civil and public lawyer. He is a senior counsel in Hong Kong where he practised for many years and was chairman of the Hong Kong Bar in 2021-2022. He has now returned to full-time practice in England. 

In addition to his Hong Kong connection, Paul has extensive experience of Africa dating back to a previous career in overseas aid.  In 2013-2015 he was a war crimes investigator for the Swiss organisation Civitas Maxima in relation to crimes committed in the Liberian civil wars at the turn of the century.

Paul is a former chairman of the Bar Human Rights Committee and a prolific author. His most recent book is “Freedom’s Banner – how peaceful demonstrations have changed the world (2nd edition, 2022).  He is also the author of the current edition of Johnston & Harris on Conflict of Laws in Hong Kong, which is the standard textbook on the subject.

Paul  has  published articles on developments in the law relating to demonstrations; on the right of self determination in international law; and on the problems of defamation via the internet.

Paul  speaks fluent French German and Spanish and regularly translates legal documents from those languages. He also has a good working knowledge of Cantonese Chinese and can conduct conferences in Cantonese.  He has a basic knowledge of Arabic.

Paul is a qualified civil and commercial mediator. He is direct access qualified.


  • M.A. Oxon (1974)
  • Call (England and Wales) (1976)
  • Call (Hong Kong) (1993);
  • Inner Bar (Hong Kong) 2006
  • LLM (Human Rights Law), Hong Kong University (2008)

Paul’s expertise

Civil Law

Paul obtained First Class marks in Trusts in his Oxford degree, and later taught the law of trusts at the University of Hong Kong. He appeared in the high profile “Magic Score” litigation in Hong Kong (Esquire Electronics v HSBC), about breaches of fiduciary duty by a bank. He has considerable experience of disputes about equitable interests in property.

Paul has extensive experience of both residential and commercial landlord and tenant disputes, and of land disputes including boundary disputes, disputes over easements, and adverse possession actions.

He has undertaken personal injury work throughout his career, ranging from relatively minor cases up to cases such as Poon v Silverthorne (above) which was a 13 day High Court trial.

Paul is a qualified civil and commercial mediator. He is direct access qualified.

Notable Cases

SBI Stellar S Investment v Hong & Hong.   2023. Expert opinion on Hong Kong and Cayman Islands conflict of laws rules for an arbitration.

Poon v Silverthorne & Anor [2022] HKCFI 1253.  High Court personal injury trial. First case in Hong Kong on school bullying and psychiatric damage.

Fong Chak Kwan v Ascentic Ltd & Ors [2021] 6 HKC 401.  Private international law test case on meaning of phrase “damage sustained within the jurisdiction” for the purpose of leave to serve proceedings out of the jurisdiction (paralleling the Four Seasons Hotel litigation in London). Successfully argued for the definition later confirmed by the UK Supreme Court in FS(Nile Plaza) v Brownlie [2021] UKSC 45.

Vikings Asia Agri Ventures BV v High West Capital Partners LLC 2021. Settled pleadings for a multi-million dollar commercial arbitration about whether a complex financial transaction is to be correctly classified as a loan or a share sale.

ZN v Secretary for Justice & Ors (HCAL15/2015; [2016] HKEC 2766). Leading Counsel in successful judicial review against Hong Kong government for its failure to have a law criminalizing human trafficking. In a landmark case, the Hong Kong government was found to be in breach of the anti-slavery provision in Hong Kong’s Bill of Rights. Opposing team was led by Lord Pannick QC.

R(Bancoult) v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs [2016] UKSC 35 (led by Edward Fitzgerald QC, Amal Clooney third member of team). Pioneering application to Supreme Court to re-open a 2008 House of Lords judgment on grounds of material non-disclosure.

Peter Sand v Information Commissioner and Foreign Secretary, (EA/2012/0196, UK Information Rights Tribunal, 28 July 2014), confirming that the UK Freedom of Information Act applies to the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Epoch Group v Director of Immigration of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [2011] HKCFI 166 (a successful challenge to the Director of Immigration’s refusal of entry to the New York based Shen Yun dance troupe, invited to Hong Kong by Falun Gong).

Mayor of London v Hall & Ors [2010] EWC 1613 (QB); [2010] EWCA Civ 817 (right to demonstrate in Parliament Square).

Chan Hau Man, Christina v Commissioner of Police [2009] 4 HKLRD 797, (the Tibetan flag demonstrator case)

Cho Man Kit v Broadcasting Authority. [2008] HKCFI 383 about sexual orientation discrimination (the “Gay Lovers” case).

Tong Yu Lam v Long Term Prison Sentence Review Board, CACV 203/2006 (about review of sentence of mandatory life sentence prisoners

HKSAR v Yeung May Wan & Ors [2005] 2 HKLRD 212 about the right to demonstrate (the “Falun Gong hunger strikers” case)

Gurung Kesh Bahadur v Director of Immigration [2002] 5 HKCFAR 480, about the right of Hong Kong residents to re-enter Hong Kong after traveling

Andayani v Chan Oi Ling [2000] 4 HKC 501 about rights of domestic helpers

HKSAR v Ng Kung Siu (1999) 2 HKCFAR 442 ( the “flag burning” case).

Paul has also acted for a London based Malaysian family in a complex inheritance case involving issues of domicile, conflict of laws and recognition of an overseas polygamous marriage.

Professional Memberships
  • Immigration Law Practitioners Association
  • Housing Law Practitioners Association
  • Association of Prison Lawyers.

Chairman, Bar Council, Hong Kong Bar Association (2021

Articles and Publications

“The Conflict of Laws in Hong Kong” (Third edition, Thompson Reuter 2017).

“Raising Freedom’s Banner – how peaceful demonstrations have changed the world” (Aristotle Lane Press, 2015)

“Defamation and the internet” ( New Law Journal 2010)

“Aspects of demonstration law” (New Law Journal, 2009)

“Tibet’s Right to Self-determination under International Law”  won an Amnesty International press freedom award in 2008.

“The right to demonstrate” (Rights Press 2007)

“ Election Law” volume of Halsbury’s Laws of Hong Kong