A new era of good governance

The year 2021 marked a turning point for Hong Kong. The Central Authorities improved the electoral system in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) with the full implementation of the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”. Citizens could elect those who are committed to serving Hong Kong into the Legislative Council (LegCo). I am confident that LegCo members will now be able to participate in policy discussions in an objective and rational manner, assisting the Government in addressing social and economic challenges, and promoting good governance in Hong Kong.

The National 14th Five-Year Plan supports Hong Kong to establish itself as the centre for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region. Last year, the HKSAR hosted the 59th Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) Annual Session with the establishment of the AALCO Hong Kong Regional Arbitration Centre, demonstrating not only the unwavering support of the Central Government in the development of our legal and dispute resolution services, but also the confidence of the AALCO in our arbitration. The AALCO Hong Kong Regional Arbitration Centre will make every effort to provide arbitral and other dispute resolution services to the member states and MSMEs (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises). Other than the AALCO Annual Session, the meeting of UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) Working Group III was also held in Hong Kong, marking the first time the UNCITRAL Working Group met in the city. I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Central Government for its trust and staunch support. In order to improve our standing, the Department of Justice (DoJ) will continue to secure the hosting of important international conferences in Hong Kong.

The DoJ has reached secondment arrangements with UNCITRAL, the Hague Conference on Private International Law and International Institute for the Unification of Private Law over the years. Some positions are even open to non-government personnel, which is different from the previous programmes. The DoJ will explore with other renowned international organisations secondment opportunities through which Hong Kong legal professionals will be able to gain valuable work experiences and receive training in diverse areas of international law.

Since Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland, we have reached nine arrangements on mutual legal assistance with the Supreme People’s Court, allowing us to foster our dispute resolution services in commercial matters. Last year, we signed a record of meeting concerning mutual recognition of and assistance to insolvency proceedings between the courts of the Mainland and the HKSAR. Hong Kong is the only jurisdiction outside the Mainland with such arrangement, which further improves the investment and business environment of both places. The implementation of the Arrangement on Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters by the Courts of the Mainland and the HKSAR signed in 2019 is also in the pipeline. A public consultation on the legislative proposals is currently ongoing and will be submitted to the LegCo for scrutiny. It is hoped that a more comprehensive mechanism for reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters can be established to provide better protection to parties of both places. The Mainland Judgments in Matrimonial and Family Cases (Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement) Ordinance was already passed in May. Once it comes into operation in the near future, it will benefit parties to cross-boundary marriages and their children as well.

In the coming year, we will continue to promote our initiative, “Vision 2030 for Rule of Law”, which aims to raise the awareness of different sectors regarding the legal principles and the rule of law through a variety of activities. Moreover, teaching materials on the Constitution, the Basic Law and national security as well as the rule of law are now available for teachers. I hope that everyone in the community will work together to safeguard the rule of law as a cornerstone of our society.

The recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission on the Outcome Related Fee Structures for Arbitration is being thoroughly studied by the DoJ. Once it is decided to adopt the recommendations, we will take forward the legislative amendments as soon as possible. The new arrangement will help enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a leading international arbitration centre and maintain our position as an international legal, dealmaking and dispute resolution hub in the Asia-Pacific region.

The DoJ will render its full support to the Security Bureau in taking forward the enactment of local legislation to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law so as to prevent, suppress and punish acts and activities that endanger national security in accordance with the law. We are dedicated to safeguarding national security so that people may live and work in peace and contentment, as well as ensuring that the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of our return to the Motherland go smoothly.

Riding on the success in 2020 and 2021, the DoJ will once again organise legal conferences on the Basic Law and the National Security Law, which are among the key events in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the HKSAR. Legal experts will be invited to share with us a proper understanding of the concepts of the Constitution, the Basic Law and national security so that we will not only move from stability to prosperity, but will also thrive with security.

I hope that the legal and dispute resolution sectors can capitalise on the opportunities brought about by our policies. I also hope that we will be able to nurture young people with a strong sense of national identity, who respect the rule of law and abide by the law, and that they will serve Hong Kong and contribute to our country in the future.

January 2, 2022