Journey through the law

Hong Kong’s unique position under “one country, two systems”, coupled with our country’s full support and trust, has helped sustain our steady growth in every aspect since our return to the Motherland. As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), I would like to invite you all to a “journey through the law”, a TV programme produced by the Department of Justice (DoJ) which will be aired tomorrow, to review the achievements that we have made in the promotion of our rule of law and development of our legal, deal-making and dispute resolution strengths over the years. I would also like to take this opportunity to share with you our accomplishments in promoting international law and enhancing co-operation with international organisations.

With the unwavering support of our country, the HKSAR has been actively participating in the work of international organisations since July 1, 1997. Legal systems in countries around the world generally fall into one of the two main categories: common law system or civil law system. China has the advantage of having both of them. Being the only common law jurisdiction in our country, Hong Kong can offer advice from the perspective of the common law system, helping to form a more holistic view for the country’s participation in the development of international law. As one of the national team players, we strive to contribute to our country’s active and effective participation in the formulation of international rules in major international issues.

Since the establishment of the HKSAR, we have been taking part in the Friends of the Chair group on Strengthening Economic and Legal Infrastructure under the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Committee in the capacity of “Hong Kong, China”. In September 2019, the Commissioner of the Inclusive Dispute Avoidance and Resolution (IDAR) Office of the DoJ was appointed as the Chair of the APEC Economic Committee to promote structural reform and strengthen APEC’s capability in the analysis of long-term macroeconomic trends and studies of microeconomic issues.

Nurturing legal talents through training is DoJ’s policy objective whilst secondment to international organisations is one of our key initiatives to accomplish the objective. With the full support from our country, the DoJ has achieved remarkable results in concluding secondment arrangements with three major international organisations, namely the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH), the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). Legal practitioners from the private sector are also able to join the secondment to the HCCH and the UNIDROIT. The secondment helps nurture legal talents by developing their global perspective and proficiency in international regulations and also instilling in them a sense of national identity and an affection for Hong Kong. Through participating in the work of international conventions, they can personally experience the evolution of international law.

The AALCO Hong Kong Regional Arbitration Centre has already been established whilst the HCCH and the DoJ Project Office for Collaboration with UNCITRAL have set up offices in the Hong Kong Legal Hub. The UNIDROIT is also planning to establish its office here in the near future. These three international organisations have been playing a leading role in private international law. Their presence in Hong Kong facilitates more exchanges and provides opportunity for legal practitioners to develop their expertise in this area of law. This also further strengthens Hong Kong’s status as an international legal and dispute resolution centre.

Article 13 (1) of the Basic Law expressly provides that the Central People’s Government shall be responsible for the foreign affairs relating to the HKSAR. Whilst matters concerning foreign affairs fall squarely within the purview of the Central Authorities, the HKSAR has been authorised to conduct relevant external affairs on its own in accordance with the Basic Law under this context. The HKSAR must obtain the approval of the Central People’s Government to conclude agreements with foreign states and regions. Since July 1, 1997, the HKSAR has, in accordance with the powers granted by the Central Authorities and the Basic Law, entered into more than 600 bilateral agreements and arrangements with the Mainland and other jurisdictions covering free trade, taxation, investment promotion and protection, civil aviation and mutual legal assistance, reinforcing our status internationally and facilitating the growth of our legal industry.

In the past four years, I am honoured to be appointed as the Secretary for Justice and have the privilege of working with an excellent team, serving the community together without fear or favour. Over the years, I am grateful for the trust and support of our country, allowing us to conclude ground-breaking arrangements with the Mainland and co-operations with legal department of various jurisdictions as well as international organisations. I was also deeply moved by the unfailing care from the Central Government after I was attacked in London. With the strong backing from our country, I have every confidence that we can overcome all the challenges, building a bright future. In less than a week, the new Secretary and his deputy will take office, I wish them the very best in the journey of upholding the rule of law and leveraging on the advantages under “one country, two systems” with the legal sector in contributing to the stability and prosperity of our country and our city.

June 25, 2022