Hong Kong has all along been a prime venue for providing international legal and dispute resolution services. However, a media organisation has reported that some international corporations consider “excluding Hong Kong from legal contracts”. In order to reassure the international community that Hong Kong is still nonpareil in terms of providing deal making and dispute resolution services, the Asian Academy of International Law (AAIL) organised a webinar on February 26, joined by legal practitioners and professionals, to showcase why Hong Kong is irreplaceable. With the use of technology, there were nearly 1,000 registrations from some 58 jurisdictions.
Indeed, this is not the first time that there were speculations over Hong Kong’s status as a leading international legal hub. Back in 2019 when Hong Kong suffered from street violence, spreading anti-Chinese sentiments, some reports suggested that enterprises had concerns over the use of Hong Kong as a legal and dispute resolution hub. To come forth to understand the situation and embrace any challenge, a seminar entitled “Is Hong Kong Still Irreplaceable?” was organised by the Department of Justice (DoJ) in Beijing in November 2019 to facilitate communications between Hong Kong’s legal professionals and Mainland enterprises. Following frank exchanges, all the participants eventually reached a consensus that “Hong Kong is still irreplaceable”.
At the AAIL’s webinar this year, speakers from international law firms and corporations led dialogues exploring the importance of Hong Kong’s role as a centre for deal-making and dispute resolution. The discussions revealed that Hong Kong’s success as an international legal hub is built on strong foundations, including a stable business environment, the free flow of capital, a low and simple tax system, and most importantly, a reliable legal system.
I was delighted to have shared my thoughts with the audience across the globe at the webinar, reassuring them Hong Kong will continue to provide a business-friendly legal framework for the international business community. Our legal infrastructure consists of a well-tested common law system, an open, transparent and independent judiciary, and also a pool of legal talents. Hong Kong law is well-known for its predictability and certainty and has been chosen as the applicable law in many international commercial transactions.
Hong Kong enjoys a number of exclusive advantages with its unique position under the “One Country, Two Systems”. The interim measures arrangement, signed between Hong Kong and the Mainland in 2019, is one of the many examples. This game-changing arrangement allows parties to arbitral proceedings, which are seated in Hong Kong and administered by one of the six arbitral institutions, to seek assistance from the relevant court in the Mainland to obtain interim measures. Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, for instance, has received applications to preserve assets totalling US$1.9 billion and Mainland courts have granted orders totalling US$1.5 billion. Hong Kong is the only jurisdiction outside the Mainland that can provide this service.
Another feature unique to Hong Kong is the opportunities under the Belt and Road Initiative and in the Greater Bay Area (GBA). Take the GBA as an example. Hong Kong enterprises registered in Qianhai Shenzhen can now choose Hong Kong law as the applicable law for their contracts. Also, Hong Kong lawyers can take a special examination and be qualified as a Mainland legal practitioner in the GBA. This means businesses will be able to secure a lawyer in Hong Kong that is qualified to advise on both Hong Kong and Mainland laws in commercial and investment transactions within the GBA. Only Hong Kong lawyers can benefit from this special arrangement.
Hong Kong has earned a global reputation for our exceptional legal and dispute resolution services over the years. Despite all the challenges ahead, experience sharing by the international practitioners in the webinar has provided facts and data for one to appreciate that Hong Kong will continue to thrive in financial and commercial activities, and, as talents always follow the money, a comprehensive range of world-class services would be available. Hong Kong will be an ideal place for people and businesses to connect and excel. In summary, Hong Kong is irreplaceable because of its financial and legal infrastructure, the business opportunities and the pool of talents.
March 10, 2021