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Saturday, Feb 24, 2024

‘Hong Kong’s common law system can benefit China’s belt and road plan’

‘Hong Kong’s common law system can benefit China’s belt and road plan’

Hong Kong’s status as sole common law jurisdiction in China makes it a good connector for mainland and places with similar legal systems, Beijing official says.

Senior Beijing officials in Hong Kong have urged the city to use its common law heritage to contribute to the country’s global trade Belt and Road Initiative and highlight its strong legal system in the face of criticism from the West.

Deputy Director of the Hong Kong Liaison Office Chen Dong on Saturday said, apart from being one of the world’s freest and most competitive economies, Hong Kong was the only common law jurisdiction in China, and was recognised by the world, making it a good connector between locations with similar legal systems and the mainland.

Chen, along with other mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials, was speaking at “The One Country, Two Systems and ‘The Belt and Road’ Initiative International Law Conference”, organised by the Hong Kong Basic Law Association.

Deputy Director of the Hong Kong Liaison Office Chen Dong.

The belt and road strategy is Beijing’s trade initiative to connect more than 70 countries across Asia, Europe and Africa via a “New Silk Road” of railways, highways and ports.

Chen said more than 20 of the countries involved had common law systems, with Hong Kong well positioned to provide support for dispute resolution work. He also highlighted that the city had around 10,000 locally registered lawyers, 1,500 foreign lawyers and more than 2,000 mediators.

He added that the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre last year had handled more than 500 disputes involving about HK$54.6 billion (US$7 billion).

Chen also mentioned that China’s 14th five-year development plan had placed Hong Kong in a more active role in legal work centring around intellectual property.

He and other speakers emphasised Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge that Beijing would stick to the “one country, two systems” governing principle, which included preserving Hong Kong’s legal system.

“As long as all sectors in Hong Kong persist and are willing to advance, the city will be able to better take part in the quality development of the belt and road strategy, integrate into national development and contribute fully to the development of a modern socialist country and the new chapter of the renaissance of the Chinese nation,” he said.

Fang Jianming, deputy commissioner of the foreign ministry’s office in Hong Kong, said the city was ranked among the best in the world for rule of law, adding that it was a popular venue for dispute resolution.

“Yet in recent years, individual countries from the West have tried to spread rumours and smear the rule of law situation in Hong Kong, undermining the city’s reputation on the rule of law,” he said.

“I hope all legal practitioners can make good use of the belt and road platform for dialogue … to tell Hong Kong’s rule of law story well with confidence,” he said.

Hong Kong’s finance chief Paul Chan Mo-po said the city could act as a platform for raising funds and could also help support infrastructure projects in the surrounding regions.

“[Southeast Asia] is an area that is bound to expand along with the aspiration for faster and quicker economic development and higher quality of life,” he said, referring to a growing demand to increase infrastructure in such countries.

Chan added that Hong Kong was a “capital formation centre” with deep ties to Southeast Asian countries and that the city was increasingly focused on more environmentally sustainable projects.

He also predicted a major flow of talent from Southeast Asia would turn toward Hong Kong and the mainland, with Chan pledging to offer them “scholarships and encourage more of them to come”.

Chief Executive John Lee in a pre-recorded message.

Meanwhile, Wang Linggui, the deputy director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, urged legal talent “who loved Hong Kong and the rest of the country” to make the most of opportunities and help the central government nurture lawyers on the mainland.

In a pre-recorded speech, Wang said the presence of international legal bodies in Hong Kong, such as the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation’s Hong Kong Regional Arbitration Centre and the Hague Conference on Private International Law’s regional office, was a testament to the city’s status as a legal centre.

“Pressing ahead with the belt and road plan will require a large group of legal professionals with an international perspective and an understanding of international rules,” he added. “Hong Kong can send legal talent who love the city and the country to take part in the work of international legal bodies.”

The mainland officials also mentioned the establishment of a preparatory office by Beijing for the International Organisation for Mediation, which they said would provide another boost to the city’s position as a regional dispute resolution centre.

The body was expected to provide a new mediation arena for an unspecified number of “like-minded” countries that sought a means of securing peaceful resolutions to disputes, they said.

In a separate pre-recorded message for the event, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said Hong Kong had experienced professionals and world-class facilities that could offer dispute-resolution services.

“Hong Kong will continue to capitalise on the unique advantages of one country, two systems, safeguard the rule of law under the Basic Law and integrate actively into the development of the belt and road plan to foster cooperation in the global arena,” he said, adding “let our pearl of the orient shine brighter than ever”.

The event also hosted several former justice secretaries, such as Elsie Leung Oi-sie, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, while Bar Association head Victor Dawes and Law Society president Chan Chak-ming were among the audience. Global legal firm Mayer Brown also acted as one of the conference’s sponsors.

During the conference, attendees observed a minute’s silence before the event to mark the death of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin earlier this week.


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