Active listening is key to resolving disputes

The controversies and disputes over the past few months have unfortunately led to escalating violence. Clashes between the Police and the public became more frequent. The Chief Executive announced that a platform for dialogue with people from all walks of life would be established with a view to finding a way out for Hong Kong.

Since July, I met with two legal professional bodies and also legal practitioners to gauge their views on various issues. Last Friday, I attended a seminar organised by the Legal Affairs Steering Committee of the Hong Kong Chinese Enterprises Association. The seminar, which was held in response to the appeal by the Chief Executive to start dialogue platforms, was joined by over 140 legal professionals who offered insights to the recent problems in Hong Kong.

At the seminar, I gave a very short introduction at the beginning to leave more time to listen to the opinions expressed by the participants. The discussion included the work of Independent Police Complaints Council, legal aid scheme, the impact on the business environment and provision of legal services, the development of small and medium sized law firms and young legal practitioners. While some shared similar views with the government, some held differently.

I also shared my views on resolving disputes through mediation with the participants. A mediator, in the process of mediation, has to remain neutral and listen to the views as well as grievances from all parties. A consensus can be reached only after their grievance is voiced out. Over the years, the technique of mediation has helped resolve a number of disputes such as the agreement on the minimum wage in 2010. Also, the Financial Dispute Resolution Centre Limited was established in 2011 to handle disputes through a “mediation first, arbitration next” approach after the outbreak of the minibonds incident.

Experience from mediation showed that narrowing differences is essential in reaching a consensus. There are still diverse views in the society and some people are not willing to make any compromise. But I believe that we all love Hong Kong. With this in mind, we can find a way to reconcile our differences through a constructive dialogue and move forward together.

September 7, 2019