The outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for national economic and social development and the long-range objectives through the year 2035 (Outline) emphasises the need to maintain Hong Kong’s long term prosperity and stability, which again demonstrates the Central People’s Government’s (CPG) staunch support and care towards Hong Kong. The 14th Five-Year Plan provides a blueprint for the nation’s social and economic development, whilst at the same time sets the scene for the future development of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong, on the premise of “One Country, Two Systems” and under the principle of pursuing mutual benefit and win-win cooperation, has a unique role to play under the 14th Five-Year Plan. We should make best use of our strength to meet the needs of the country and couple the support of the country with our own efforts in order to consolidate and foster the development of Hong Kong itself, as well as that of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and our country.
The Outline reiterates the need to maintain Hong Kong’s long term prosperity and stability, which requires the resolute, full and faithful implementation of the policy of “One Country, Two Systems” under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy in strict accordance with the laws of Hong Kong as well as to safeguard the constitutional order of Hong Kong formed under the Constitution and the Basic Law. On the other hand, the Outline reflects the importance of raising Hong Kong’s competitiveness and CPG’s staunch support towards the same.
In the area of legal and dispute resolution services, I am delighted to learn that the Outline supports Hong Kong to establish itself as the centre for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region, and transform Hong Kong’s service sector into a high value-added industry. The Department of Justice (DoJ) is working closely with relevant Mainland ministries and departments with a view to implementing more liberalisation and new measures. The GBA Legal Professional Examination and the Supplemental Arrangement Concerning Mutual Enforcement of Arbitral Awards between the Mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are the two recent breakthroughs facilitating the sustainable development of Hong Kong’s legal and dispute resolution services in the GBA (please see my blog on January 3 for information on these two measures: https://www.doj.gov.hk/en/community_engagement/sj_blog/20210103_blog1.html).
Besides, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area Legal Departments Joint Conference endorsed the proposal to set up a GBA Mediation Platform on 11 December 2020, which will facilitate the use of mediation and discharge the role of a standard-setting body with a view to promoting the wider use of mediation within the GBA.
All these measures have played a significant role in strengthening the promotion of Hong Kong’s legal and dispute resolution service in the GBA, and further foster the integration and professional exchanges between the two places.
Looking ahead, we will continue to consolidate our efforts in deepening mutual collaboration with the Mainland in terms of legal and dispute resolution services. Hong Kong enterprises registered in Qianhai were recently allowed to choose Hong Kong law as the applicable law in their civil and commercial contracts. We are now actively seeking the support of the CPG in extending the measure to the entire GBA. In addition, the proposal on the establishment of a mechanism on corporate insolvency is in in the pipeline. We are striving for a consensus with the Supreme People’s Court on to explore the first launch of this mechanism in the city with the closest economic relationship with Hong Kong in the GBA (such as Shenzhen) as a pilot area. Such arrangement will help enhance Hong Kong’s position as a regional hub for insolvency and debt restructuring and further enrich the content of mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters.
In order to nurture more legal talents who are familiar with the legal systems of both places, the DoJ encourages the legal sector to make best of the GBA Youth Employment Scheme introduced by the HKSAR Government to support young local practitioners who aspire to work in the Mainland cities. Moreover, financial incentives have also been provided to eligible young legal professionals who are working and living in Qianhai by the Administration Bureau of Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone. We believe all these measures will encourage more legal talents to grasp the opportunities to pursue their career in the GBA cities.
In addition to commercial matters, it is expected that the Mainland Judgments in Matrimonial and Family Cases (Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement) Bill will be passed in the current legislative session. By then, parties to a judgment given in a matrimonial or family case no longer need to litigate separately for the same dispute in a Mainland court and a Hong Kong court, thereby saving time and cost and reducing emotional distress. More importantly, parties concerned can expeditiously receive effective judicial redress.
Since the enactment of the Law on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, order and stability in our community had been restored. Hong Kong is now ready to capitalise on its unique position under the “One Country, Two Systems”, thereby leveraging Hong Kong's advantages in order to meet the nation’s needs and to create greater synergy. I will continue to work with my fellow colleagues of the Department of Justice to utilise Hong Kong’s advantages in legal and dispute resolution services in order to strengthen Hong Kong’s enviable status as an international legal hub, as well as to make the best use of the opportunity brought forth by the 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development, thereby contributing to the prosperity of our country.
March 14, 2021