The pandemic has dealt a hard blow to the economies of many countries and regions including the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, all of which have experienced a decline in their gross domestic product (GDP). Nevertheless, China has been bucking the global trend with a sustainable economic growth, including increases in the exports of merchandise, goods and services and maintaining a stable unemployment rate.
Hong Kong’s economy, irrespective of outbound investment by Mainland enterprises or overseas investment into the Mainland through Hong Kong, is closely linked with China. The capitalist system under the “one country, two systems” is supported by the common law with our legal sector playing an important role in upholding the rule of law and maintaining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. Given that the business development of legal profession is closely related to that of the country, it is necessary for legal bodies to communicate with the Mainland authorities on behalf of Hong Kong’s legal sector in a bid to promote our legal services and explore new markets.
The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) is a key development strategy of the country. Enterprises in the GBA have been benefitted from the economic growth, resulting in an upsurge in investments and transactions, as well as the demand for legal and dispute resolution services. Being the only common law jurisdiction in China, Hong Kong’s legal and dispute resolution sector should leverage the unique advantage under “one country, two systems and three jurisdictions” in the GBA and integrate into the overall development of our country.
With the support of the Central Government, a number of initiatives in the GBA have been gradually implemented. The GBA Legal Professional Examination was held successfully. It will bring tremendous opportunities in the GBA to Hong Kong’s legal sector. Mainland lawyers and Hong Kong legal practitioners who have obtained practice qualifications in the GBA may join hands and complement each other to provide the GBA enterprises with both Hong Kong and Mainland legal services and safeguards, leading to a win-win situation which is the best embodiment of the mutually beneficial relationship.
In addition, the Department of Justice has rolled out a number of measures with the Mainland to explore markets for the legal sector. These include the co-operation mechanism on cross-boundary insolvency and debt restructuring between the Mainland and Hong Kong, the arbitration interim measures arrangement, the setting up of the Greater Bay Area Mediation Platform, the removal of the minimum capital injection ratio by Hong Kong partner firms in partnership associations, and the relaxation of the requirements for Hong Kong legal practitioners to be retained as legal consultants by Mainland law firms, etc. The introduction and continuous implementation of these measures for our legal profession are attributed to the upholding of the “one country, two systems” and strong support for Hong Kong by the Central Government.
During my visit to Beijing last month, I called on a number of Mainland ministries. The officials have shown their clear support for the implementation of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong. Under the “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong’s capitalist system, which has been working smoothly, is supported not only by our common law system that provides a certain and predictable legal framework, but also a stable environment for investors. So long as we all genuinely adhere to the principle of “one country”, respect and fully implement “one country, two systems”, and stay true to the original aspiration of the Basic Law - safeguarding national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, maintaining Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, I have full confidence that the common law will continue to apply in Hong Kong. On this, the Hong Kong legal sector has a significant role to play. We should also stay vigilant against the dissemination of corrupted ideology through different channels by anti-China disruptors who attempt to undermine the stable development of Hong Kong.
I have signed four arrangements in Beijing, fostering the legal exchanges between the two places and further promoting our legal, dispute resolution and deal-making services. In order to seize the opportunities and benefit from these measures, the legal sector has to move in the right direction whilst reinforcing its strength. We should also continue to discharge our functions as a lawyer in a professional and objective manner, contributing to the rule of law in Hong Kong and the Motherland.
Recently, I am aware of views that legal bodies are neither political parties nor political organisations and should therefore strive to maintain their professionalism rather than politicisation. I fully agree. Our legal professionals should use their expertise to uphold the rule of law and promote legal services, maintaining professionalism as expected by the legal industry and the community; continue to adopt the self-regulatory regime in the areas of profession and practice; enable members of the legal sector to capitalise on their legal talent, thereby broadening the scope of service and welcoming a brighter and better future.
August 16, 2021