Hong Kong lawyers attacked by pro-Beijing media defeated in heated Law Society poll

HONG KONG, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Five candidates pledging "professionalism" over politics swept an election for Hong Kong's Law Society council early Wednesday, shattering the hopes of a camp that wanted tougher action to defend the rule of law in the global financial hub.

Five of the governing council's 20 seats were up for grabs. A society statement confirmed that candidates widely seen as pro-establishment won all the open seats.

The traditionally low-profile election was unusually fraught this year amid the pressures of a sweeping national security law. Officials and pro-Beijing media accused some candidates of political bias. L4N2PP24I

One of the three candidates described as "liberal" by pro-Beijing media, incumbent Jonathan Ross, withdrew over the weekend, saying he wanted to protect the safety of himself and his family.

Society President Melissa Pang said that the group would continue to defend the rule of law from a neutral stance.

"Professionalism is very important," she said. "In terms of politics, we are apolitical."

The 12,000-member professional and regulatory body for the city's legal sector has a watchdog role over legal changes, and a say in the appointments of judges and lawyers who sit on government advisory bodies.

Reporting By Greg Torode, James Pomfret and Jessie Pang. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.