Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area) comprises Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Macao Special Administrative Region, and the nine municipalities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing in Guangdong Province.
On 1 July 2017, the National Development and Reform Commission and the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao signed the Framework Agreement on Deepening Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Cooperation in the Development of the Greater Bay Area in Hong Kong, which sets out the objectives and principles of cooperation for the development of the Greater Bay Area. These include to consolidate and enhance Hong Kong’s status as international financial, transportation and trade centres, strengthen its status as a global offshore Renminbi business hub and an international asset management centre, promote the development of its professional services and innovation and technology industries, and establish a centre for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific Region.
On 18 February 2019, the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (“Outline Development Plan”) was promulgated. Specifically, in the Outline Development Plan, the development objectives relating to the legal and dispute resolution services of Hong Kong include:
The legal profession in Hong Kong has been developing the Mainland market by utilising the liberalisation measures under the “Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement”. The Department will continue to liaise with the legal and dispute resolution industry and to discuss with the relevant Mainland authorities to further deepen the liberalisation measures. The Department will also continue to explore the feasibility of the proposals on wider application of the Hong Kong laws, the choice of arbitration in Hong Kong and the expansion of the scope of practice of Hong Kong legal practitioners in the Greater Bay Area, and to study the feasibility of promulgation of a set of unified mediators’ accreditation standards, best practice for mediation rules and best practice for mediators’ code of conduct for the purpose of promoting further use of mediation in the Greater Bay Area.
According to the Agreement Concerning Amendment to the CEPA Agreement on Trade in Services signed by the Mainland and Hong Kong in November 2019, Hong Kong legal practitioners, upon passing a special examination, will be qualified to practise in specific areas to provide Mainland legal services in the nine Pearl River Delta municipalities in the Greater Bay Area. On 11 August 2020, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed the decision on authorising the State Council on the implementation of pilot measures for Hong Kong and Macao legal practitioners to obtain Mainland practice qualifications and to practise as lawyers in the nine Pearl River Delta municipalities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Specific pilot measures will be formulated and announced by the State Council.
The Department will strive to develop Hong Kong as an international legal services centre and an international commercial dispute resolution centre. In addition, the Department will promote alternative dispute resolution (including arbitration, mediation and consultation) as a means to resolve intellectual property disputes.
In order to refine the mechanism for international commercial dispute resolution, and to develop an international arbitration centre, the Department supports exchanges and co-operation among arbitration and mediation organisations in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, so as to provide arbitration and mediation services to the economic and trade activities in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. The Department has also established the Inclusive Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Office (IDAR Office) to help seize the valuable opportunities generated by the Greater Bay Area plan.
The Department works towards supporting Hong Kong in becoming a service centre for resolving investment and commercial disputes relating to Belt and Road projects.
For more details about Hong Kong’s legal and dispute resolution activities, please refer to the website of Legal Hub of Hong Kong Government.
The Department and the legal and dispute resolution industry organise exchange and training activities from time to time, where legal practitioners can share their experience. The Department will continue to put resources on capacity building and strengthen the co-operation with the organisations in the Greater Bay Area and internationally, so as to establish Hong Kong as a legal capacity building centre in the Greater Bay Area.
In September 2019, the Department and the High People’s Court of Guangdong Province signed a framework arrangement on exchange and mutual learning in legal aspects in the Greater Bay Area. The Arrangement aims to facilitate courts in Guangdong and relevant legal bodies in Hong Kong to launch legal projects on exchanges and collaboration.
"One country, two systems and three jurisdictions" are the unique characteristics of the Greater Bay Area, which present the opportunity for Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to show their respective strengths and provide innovative and diversified legal services to enterprises in the Greater Bay Area.
In view of the above, the Department of Justice together with the Department of Justice, Guangdong and the Office of the Secretary for Administration and Justice of the Macao Special Administrative Region held the first Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area Legal Departments Joint Conference (the Joint Conference) in Hong Kong on 12 September 2019.
The main purpose for setting up the Joint Conference is, in accordance with the guiding directions set out in the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, to strengthen the legal exchanges and collaborations between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao with a view to jointly promoting legal development in the Greater Bay Area, thereby providing more comprehensive and inclusive legal and dispute resolution services to enterprises.
At the meeting, the three parties agreed to establish a joint conference mechanism among the legal departments, which will be hosted in the three locations alternately to discuss work progress and research priorities on legal exchanges and collaboration. Specific proposals, including those relating to dispute resolution and choice of law in the Greater Bay Area, were also put forward during the meeting.