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HK set to fortify position as Asia-Pacific's top legal hub

By ZOU SHUO in Hong Kong | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-06-28 08:17
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Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah gives an interview. [Photo by ZOU HONG/CHINA DAILY]

Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah said the city is well-placed to strengthen its leading position as an international legal and dispute resolution hub in the Asia-Pacific region because of the unique strength of Hong Kong's legal system under the principle of "one country, two systems".

The Basic Law and the "one country, two systems" principle have allowed Hong Kong as part of China to maintain its common law system, as the only region in the country to practice such a system, Cheng said. They have also ensured the core values of upholding the rule of law and judicial independence in the city.

"In the past 25 years since Hong Kong returned to the motherland, the rule of law has remained steadfast in the city and is the cornerstone of its success, both as an international financial center and an international legal, deal-making and dispute resolution hub," she said in an interview ahead of the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland, which falls on July 1.

The Worldwide Governance Indicators by the World Bank said Hong Kong's rule of law percentile ranking steadily increased in the past 25 years from less than 70 percent in 1996 to more than 80 percent in 1998 and over 90 percent since 2003, she said.

Hong Kong is the third-most-preferred place in the world for arbitration services, according to the 2021 Queen Mary University of London and White &Case International Arbitration Survey, she added.

Regarding central government support, Cheng points out that both the nation's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development plan support Hong Kong in becoming an international legal and dispute resolution hub in the Asia-Pacific region.

Cheng believes the Greater Bay Area's development will bring immense opportunities for Hong Kong's legal-service-related industries.

Under a pilot program decided in 2020 by the National People's Congress, the nation's top legislature, lawyers from Hong Kong and Macao have been allowed to handle civil and commercial cases in the nine mainland cities within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area after passing an examination.

The pilot program is very important for the development of lawyers from Hong Kong, and lawyers from the mainland can also benefit from increased interaction and communication with their Hong Kong counterparts, she said.

In order to further develop Hong Kong's strength, Cheng said it is important to not be complacent and that the city must continue to look for opportunities in the area.

Dispute resolution is not just confined to arbitration, but also involves other forms of dispute resolution such as mediation, which may be very well suited for the Asian culture and is more collaborative as it looks toward a win-win situation, she said.

The city should continue to promote arbitration services beyond the Asian-Pacific region and continuously and regularly update its arbitration and mediation laws, she added.

Capacity building is also very important, so the city needs to attract outsiders to come and provide legal services in Hong Kong, she said.

Hong Kong must also work closely with the mainland and continue to utilize the strength of the "one country, two systems" principle through a number of arrangements and collaboration, she added.

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