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.
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.