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2021

19/11/2021
The uniqueness of the theme of today's colloquium is the use of square brackets for the phrase [Post-]Pandemic Era. It reflects that in some jurisdictions they adopt a zero-COVID approach whilst others a live-with-COVID strategy. Yet irrespective of the different approaches, the world has to adapt and must adapt quickly. Trade continues, and trade law-related disputes are unavoidable. Despite a fall in world trade in 2020 due to the pandemic, recent figures have shown a resurgence of global economic activity and projected a rebound in world trade in 2021. As cross-border trade will continue to be an engine of growth in the post-pandemic recovery, an important topic which warrants our discussion today is the development of international trade laws. Application of the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) to the Hong Kong Special Administrative RegionThe Secretary of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Anna Joubin-Bret commented at the 4th UNCITRAL Asia Pacific Judicial Summit in Hong Kong Legal Week 2021, “the CISG, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, is the most successful substantive uniform commercial law treaty”. CISG entered in force for China as of January 1, 1988. CISG will soon be applicable to the Hong Kong SAR. The legislation has been passed and pending the procedural aspects in accordance with Article 153 of the Basic Law and for the Central People's Government to formally notify the Secretary-General of the United Nations (as depository for the CISG) of the requisite declaration for its application to the Hong Kong SAR, CISG will come into force in the Hong Kong SAR next year. (i) Reservation under Article 95 of the CISGChina has made a reservation under Article 95 of the CISG, declaring that it is not bound by Article 1(1)(b). This means that CISG rules only apply to international sales contracts between parties whose places of business are in different CISG contracting states (as required by Article 1(1)(a)) in Mainland China. In response to the consultation submissions in the Hong Kong SAR, the CISG will apply to the Hong Kong SAR in full, that is without China's Article 95 reservation. This distinction evidences China's determination to fully implement and respect “one country, two systems” and in particular to facilitate the Hong Kong SAR to continue to develop its common law legal system. (ii) Mainland - Hong Kong SAR arrangementBeing an international convention governing international sale of goods, CISG does not apply to transactions within China, namely between businesses in the Mainland and the Hong Kong SAR. We will discuss with the Central People's Government to arrive at an arrangement to ensure the effective implementation of the principles enshrined in CISG under “one country, two systems”. Balancing trade and public health: solidarity is keyEver since the outbreak of the pandemic, lawyers practising international trade law have repeatedly warned of the risk that COVID-19 response measures adopted by governments, which unavoidably interfere in some way with the business operations of private enterprises, might be challenged in courts or investor-state dispute settlement proceedings. Indeed, the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD) published an issues note in 2020 warning that there could be a surge of investor-state cases with respect to COVID-related measures. In December 2020, as a measure to guarantee the supply of a COVID-19 medication Remdesivir in Russia, the Russian Government, in accordance with its national law and in line with the compulsory licensing regime under Article 31 of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), issued an order to grant a compulsory license to a Russian company for the use of certain patents without the consent of the patent holder, Gilead Sciences, a US-based pharmaceutical company. The order allowed the Russian company to produce the COVID-19 medication in Russia on a non-exclusive basis until the end of 2021, upon paying to Gilead adequate compensation. Article 31 of the TRIPS Agreement permits WTO members to grant compulsory licences under their own national laws, so as to allow the use of a patent without the patent holder's authorisation, subject to the payment of adequate compensation and usually after unsuccessful efforts to obtain authorisation from the patent holder. This latter requirement for prior negotiations with the patent holder may also be waived in the case of a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency or in cases of public non-commercial use. In the Russian case, Gilead later filed a lawsuit at the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, challenging the government order and arguing that it undermined Gilead's rights as the patent owner in choosing its licensees and in setting the amount of consideration for the licence. In May 2021, the Supreme Court rejected Gilead's claims, and the Russian Government's order was upheld. Apart from Article 31, the international community has explored other measures to combat the pandemic under the TRIPS Agreement. Back in October 2020, India and South Africa initiated a proposal for a temporary waiver of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, suspending the patent rights in relation to COVID-19 medications, so as to aid the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19. The proposal has since gained support from a significant number of countries, including China, Russia and the US. China has expressed support of the developing countries' demand for the TRIPS waiver and will do all things that are conducive to the equitable distribution of COVID-19 medications and their fight against the pandemic. The TRIPS Council is scheduled to have a meeting this week to discuss the proposal, and the world eagerly awaits its decision. Dispute resolution under the new normal: online dispute resolution (ODR)Another area which will be key in driving our post-pandemic recovery is technology. Technological developments and innovation have revamped the dispute resolution scene. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting on Structural Reform convened in June this year, ministers of the member economies issued a joint statement, endorsing the Enhanced APEC Agenda for Structural Reform (EAASR) and recognising the importance of the collaborative framework on ODR (APEC ODR Framework) as a tool to advance structural reforms to support post-pandemic economic recovery and to build strong, sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the region. Last week, the economic leaders of APEC issued the leaders' declaration after their meeting, welcoming the EAASR, as providing for collaboration on growth-focused reforms designed to be inclusive, resilient, sustainable and innovation-friendly. The leaders' express support for the EAASR provided a very solid basis for furthering APEC's ODR work under it. The APEC ODR Framework, developed by the APEC Economic Committee, is part of an exemplary initiative undertaken by APEC to help businesses, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), to resolve cross-border commercial disputes through the use of ODR. The APEC ODR Framework provides a one-stop-shop for e-negotiation, e-mediation and e-arbitration, ensuring fast and affordable access to justice for MSMEs. Hong Kong, China, being a staunch supporter of APEC's work, was one of the early economies to have opted-into the APEC ODR Framework and, with the support of eBRAM Centre, we have launched a series of initiatives to develop and promote the use of ODR in the Hong Kong SAR, in line with the APEC ODR Framework. Meanwhile, ODR has also been accorded high priority in the ASEAN agenda, and a workshop on ODR was organised in our Hong Kong Legal Week 2021. Prominent speakers emphasised the value of ODR under the new normal throughout the Legal Week, and as Michael Dennis said, for MSMEs which often face financial constraints and cannot afford lengthy legal proceedings, “ODR is not just an alternative, it is the only practical redress option.” To keep track of the ODR landscape and develop legal tools to address potential issues, the Inclusive Global Legal Innovation Platform on ODR (iGLIP on ODR) was recently set up with the support of the Department of Justice (DoJ) Project Office for Collaboration with UNCITRAL (DoJ Project Office). At its 54th Session in July, UNCITRAL has just endorsed the suggestion of its secretariat to continue to collaborate with the DoJ Project Office and to take part in iGLIP on ODR, so as to utilise the experience, resources and connections available to co-operate in promoting, raising awareness and capacity building on ODR. The second meeting of the iGLIP on ODR will be held next week, where we will discuss, amongst other things, ODR as a means of access to justice, access to technology and minimum standards. Ladies and gentlemen, it is now almost two years into the pandemic. No one can say for sure when we will eventually come to the much-longed-for truly post-pandemic era. Whether the pandemic remains or subsides, we must rethink our modus operandi in the status quo and re-orient to the new normal. To echo the words of the WHO Director-General on the pandemic, “No country can solve this crisis alone...That means a paradigm shift in global solidarity - in sharing experiences, expertise and resources, and in working together to keep supply lines open, and supporting nations who need our support”. Global solidarity and multilateralism are essential to overcome the setbacks of the pandemic, and for us to emerge from these challenges to a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng gave these remarks at the 2021 Colloquium on International Law Development of International Trade Law in the Post-Pandemic Era on November 19.
16/11/2021
The Government said today that intimidation against judges and judicial officers is unacceptable to Hong Kong which observes the rule of law and it will spare no effort in bringing the culprits to justice to safeguard the public peace. The Department of Justice issued a statement in response to threatening letters received by the West Kowloon and Sha Tin Magistrates' Courts. The statement said that in exercising judicial power, judges are required to handle cases strictly in accordance with the applicable law and evidence. Article 85 of the Basic Law guarantees the courts of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference, it added. Strongly deploring recent cases of criminal intimidation against judges, the department said that under section 24 of the Crimes Ordinance, anyone who threatens any other person with injury to him or her shall be guilty and liable to imprisonment for five years. The Judiciary expressed grave concerns about recent repeated incidents involving intimidating letters sent to judicial officers and it has reported the cases to Police. It said attempts to exert improper pressure on judges and judicial officers represent a direct challenge to the rule of law and the principle of judicial independence and added that such acts must be severely condemned.
12/11/2021
Customs today said they arrested three people and seized goods worth about $63 million after detecting a suspected smuggling case using containers with large-scale false compartments. During an anti-smuggling operation on the night of November 5, Customs officers intercepted a river trade vessel in the western waters of Hong Kong as it was heading towards the Mainland.  The officers discovered the large-scale false compartments under the floor of two containers, which were declared to be empty, on board. The batch of suspected smuggled goods, which includes expensive food ingredients and electronic products, is worth about $50 million and was seized inside the false compartments. Upon a follow-up investigation, officers raided a container yard in San Tin and confiscated five more containers with large-scale false compartments and a batch of suspected smuggled goods worth about $13 million. During the operation, three men, aged between 32 and 40, were arrested and a container truck was detained. People are urged to call 2545 6182 or send an email to report suspected smuggling activities.
08/11/2021
Police seized 610kg of cocaine hidden in metal drums of frozen juice, with a market value of around $600 million to mark the second largest seizure in terms of volume by the force thus far. Acting on information, Narcotics Bureau officers searched two cargo containers at a logistics company in Tin Shui Wan last Friday. The containers arrived from Sao Paulo, Brazil. In one of the containers, they seized a total of 610kg of cocaine that was hidden in seven metal drums of frozen juice. The market value of the drugs is estimated to be $620 million. During a follow-up action last Saturday, officers arrested a man in a Kwai Chung industrial building on the charge of trafficking in a dangerous drug. Briefing the media on the case this morning, Police Narcotics Bureau Superintendent (Operations) Chan Kong-ming noted that the drug traffickers had used metal drums instead of plastic buckets to conceal the drugs to make it more difficult and time-consuming for officers to dismantle them. The drugs were also given additional protection so that they would not be easily detected by devices. Police may not have been able to detect that there was something inside the metal drums had they not used a highly efficient X-ray machine. “It took almost two days for our officers to dismantle every drum because we (had) to physically open each of them,” he said.
07/11/2021
The Court of Final Appeal handed down a judgment concerning the offences of unlawful assembly and riot on November 4. I would like to highlight some of the significant legal points clarified by the Court of Final Appeal so that members of the public may have a better understanding of the offences. (1) Broad expression of "taking part" • The judgment noted that "taking part" has a broad expression, embracing conduct which involves facilitating, assisting or encouraging. Those, in doing so, may attract liability either as principal offender or aider and abettor. (Paragraph 14)  • A defendant is considered to be "taking part" if he or she performs the acts prohibited or acts in facilitating, assisting or encouraging others. (Paragraph 109d)  • While mere presence does not make a person guilty, it does not take a great deal of activity to move from mere presence to encouragement, such as by words, signs or gestures, or by wearing the badge or ensign of the rioters. (Paragraph 82)  • The offences of unlawful assembly and riot are participatory in nature. Proof of participatory intent may generally be inferred from conduct. (Paragraph 109c) (2) Extraneous common purpose not required to be proved • There is no requirement for the prosecution to prove any extraneous common purpose. The participatory intent already denotes the requirement of a defendant being aware of other participants’ related prohibited conduct. (Paragraphs 48 – 50) (3) Basic form of joint enterprise unnecessary • A person can be found guilty as a principal offender of unlawful assembly or riot if it is proved that he was present at the scene and taking part in the unlawful assembly or riot. (Paragraph 109f)  • Therefore, basic form of joint enterprise is found to be unnecessary and not applicable to the offences of unlawful assembly and riot. (Paragraphs 66, 67 and 109g)  • Defendants who promote or act in furtherance of an unlawful assembly or riot while not present at the scene would still be liable as accessories or as a conspirator or inciter of the main offences, and are punishable to the same extent as principal offenders. (Paragraphs 68-70, 109f, 109h and 111) It is important to bear in mind that paragraphs 69 and 70 of the judgment clearly stated that public order can be fully enforced relying on secondary liability and inchoate offences. Those masterminds who remotely oversee and give commands, fund or provide materials for the unlawful assembly or riot, encourage or promote it on social media, provide back-up support to participants such as collecting bricks, or act as lookouts may either be "taking part" as principals or liable as aiders and abettors if present at the scene; or, if not present, liable as counsellors or procurers. Further, the judgment gave an example in paragraph 73 that if a group of people agreed to take part together in a riot intending to erect barristers stopping traffic while knowing some amongst them would take along petrol bombs, should they proceed with their plan and petrol bombs were used to cause serious injury, the doctrine of extended joint enterprise might apply under which rioters would be liable for the more serious offence. I hope the above summary would assist the general public in learning the legal principles set out in the judgment. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on November 7.
05/11/2021
Hong Kong residents born in 1980, 1981 or 1982 should apply for a new smart identity card at a smart identity card replacement centre from November 19 to January 18 next year, the Immigration Department announced today. Bookings can be made online, on the department’s mobile application or by calling the 24-hour hotline at 2121 1234. Applicants may take up to two disabled people and two family members or two friends aged 65 or above to replace their identity cards together. Residents who are absent from Hong Kong during their call-up period can apply within 30 days of their return to the city. Call 2824 6111 for enquiries.
05/11/2021
IntroductionToday, we are here to celebrate three matters: the inaugural Rule of Law Signature Engagement Event, the launch of the Rule of Law Database, and the addition of LAWASIA to the Hong Kong legal hub. Inaugural Rule of Law Signature Engagement EventThe inaugural Rule of Law Signature Engagement Event marks the last event of the Hong Kong Legal Week 2021. Being complementary to the Rule of Law Congress, with the events being held in alternating years during the Hong Kong Legal Week each year, this event aims to have a more in-depth discussion on selected topics involving specific stakeholders. The event title, Signature Engagement Event, with the acronym SEE, is deliberately designed to tie in with the department's Vision 2030 for Rule of Law initiative - for us to see and focus on important topics for discussion, and advancing in the vision for Vision 2030 for Rule of Law towards a sustainable future for all. The theme of today's event is: A Journey of Transformation for a Sustainable Future. Through today's discussions, covering a number of crucial topics including the development of legal technology, advancing access to justice and the importance of objective data, and how cultural, legal traditions and socio-economic factors interplay for the development of the rule of law, we invite you to join us in our journey and hope to enlighten your thoughts to share our vision in building and maintaining more equal and inclusive societies for a sustainable future in the region and beyond. UN 2030 Agenda and big dataVision 2030 was inspired by and aligns with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in Goal 16 of the agenda it aims to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. The rule of law is a key pillar to the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda, and as identified by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres during the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2021, “Invest in more equal and inclusive societies” is one of the four areas requiring decisive action. In his speech at the General Debate of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly last year, President Xi Jinping pledged for the establishment of the International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals, the first international scientific research institute in the world that serves the UN 2030 Agenda through big data. Accordingly, the research centre, operated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was inaugurated at the International Forum on Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals in September this year. In his congratulatory letter at the inauguration ceremony, President Xi stressed the importance of using technology and big data in helping the international community to overcome difficulties and implement the UN 2030 Agenda globally, and to contribute to building a community with a sustainable future, especially after the huge impact of COVID-19. We are very honoured to have Director General of the Research Center Prof Guo Huadong deliver today's keynote speech on the topic Big Earth Data in Facilitating of Sustainable Development Goals, taking us through the challenges and constraints in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and how big data solutions can improve, monitor and evaluate these goals. Launch of Rule of Law DatabaseThe rule of law manifests itself in a multitude of facets. I said in the ceremonial opening of the legal year 2020, “There are many intimations of what constitutes the rule of law - some may be described as perpetual truths and inspirational whilst others imaginative or even misleading. There are many ways by which the practice of rule of law is to be assessed, some based on subjective perception while others on objective indicia.” Subjective data such as perception-based surveys may not accurately provide a fair picture of the practice of the rule of law in a particular place. As such, in order to develop a mechanism to review the practice of the rule of law, it may be more productive to use empirical and objective data to review the practice of some core fundamental in the practice of the rule of law. The United Nations noted that the follow-up and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development shall be guided by, among other things, data “based on evidence, informed by country-led evaluations and data which is high-quality, timely, reliable and disaggregated by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status, disability and geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts”. With the invaluable advice and guidance from the Members of the Task Force of Vision 2030 for Rule of Law, and in line with the UN 2030 Agenda, we have embarked on a journey to study the use of objective data in reviewing the practice of the rule of law as well as acknowledging the influence of culture, legal tradition and socio-economic conditions that may impact on the practice of the rule of law in different jurisdictions. Rule of Law DatabaseI am delighted to share with you the good news that we have taken the first step forward to launch the rule of law database, which aims to provide an objective assessment of the practice of the rule of law in Hong Kong. Its features can be summarised into three aspects: (i) Collection of objective data from open sourceThe objective data used in the database are collected from the public domain. However, raw data needs to be properly processed, analysed, interpreted and formatted before meaningful conclusions can be drawn. One must therefore avoid simply referring to the raw data as a direct reference to the practice of the rule of law in Hong Kong. Without proper analysis and interpretation, they may obfuscate as opposed to illuminate. (ii) Methodologies subject to refinementIn order to assess the practice of the rule of law in an impartial and fair manner, methodologies have to be developed and continuously refined to effectively analyse the collected data. These methodologies will enable us to review the practice of the rule of law fairly. In updating and further refining these methodologies, any informed and objective views are most welcome. (iii) Self-monitoring and striving for improvementAt this stage, all the objective data collected and analysed are intended to enable one to review the practice of the rule of law in Hong Kong, with a view to striving for continuous improvement. In the long run, with sufficient data, more focused and specialised analysis on the data based on a methodology with appropriate weighting or such other mathematical formulae can be conducted to study the practice of rule of law in Hong Kong, thereby facilitating self-improvement. This is in line with Target 16.3 of Goal 16 of UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and that is to “Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all”. Culture and youthFurther to the successful launch of the Vision 2030 initiative last year, the Department of Justice has spared no efforts in working on various projects to promote and advance the rule of law. For more effective promotion and capacity building, the 3Es projects, namely Engagement, Empowerment and Enrichment, have commenced to take root in society. The Department of Justice also organised the International Youth Legal Exchange Conference 2021 in September this year as one of our Enrichment projects to explore how culture and legal tradition may influence the practice of the rule of law in different jurisdictions. Connecting the regional students and young legal practitioners in the Asia-Pacific region from 11 jurisdictions, views and ideas were exchanged on the cultural, socio-economic and legal traditions of their respective jurisdictions and how those elements interplay with the development of the rule of law. As a follow-up to the Youth Conference I have just mentioned, we have invited members of the adjudicating panel and the delegates awarded the Best Paper, the University of Malaya, and the delegates awarded the Best Presentation, the National University of Singapore, for a more in-depth discussion of some of the cultural elements unique to their jurisdictions in the first roundtable dialogue session. We hope to provide more opportunities for the young generation to participate in international conferences, and, subject to feedback from stakeholders including from all of you here, we may seek to include a youth-centric event in later editions of the Hong Kong Legal Week every year in line with our aim of building a sustainable future for the rule of law. Legal technologyTechnological developments in the law and legal practice may impact on how law students should prepare for their future careers in this age of digital transformation. As lawyers, we are not experts in the fields of science or technology. This is where we bring in scientists and experts in these areas to collaborate and make use of the digital transformation to enhance the legal industry. Questions such as how judges can make use of technology in their courtrooms and how legal practitioners can make use of technology such as online dispute resolution (ODR) platforms in resolving cross-boundary disputes will undoubtedly be asked, in particular against the backdrop of ensuring that justice is not denied during the pandemic. Another intriguing question relates to the use of electronic means such as e-discovery to assist lawyers in achieving clarity, speed and efficiency in managing voluminous documents, assisting in their fight for the best interests of clients. We will hear from the distinguished panellists on these issues in the panel discussion later this afternoon. The Department of Justice has long recognised the impact of legal technology. To this end the Inclusive Global Legal Innovation Platform on ODR, iGLIP on ODR, was set up to facilitate studies on ODR-related issues in collaboration with UNCITRAL, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, holding its first meeting in March this year and bringing together experts from all around the world to exchange views. Recently, the UNCITRAL Commission at its 54th Session in July endorsed its secretariat's suggestion to continue to collaborate with Hong Kong on this area and to take part in iGLIP on ODR. The development of the Hong Kong legal cloud is also well under way with a view to providing safe, secure and affordable data storage services for the local legal and dispute resolution sector to keep pace with the digital transformation. Legal HubThe third matter that calls for celebration today is the new addition of LAWASIA to the legal hub. Building on the success of the 32nd LAWASIA Conference in Hong Kong during the first Hong Kong Legal Week held in 2019, an agreement was reached between the Department of Justice and LAWASIA in October this year to strengthen co-operation and exchange. This arrangement would allow LAWASIA to expand their influence in Hong Kong and the region by having a presence in the Hong Kong legal hub, and the Department of Justice will assist to facilitate the organisation of training, conferences or other events of LAWASIA that are of mutual interest in Hong Kong. Our arrangement with LAWASIA is the first of its kind. To continue to develop Hong Kong as an international legal and dispute resolution services hub, the Department of Justice will continue to explore the possibility of bringing other renowned international organisations to Hong Kong. ConclusionLadies and gentlemen, the UN 2030 Agenda seeks to transform the world, and throughout the course of this week, I hope that you can see that the Department of Justice is also committed to embarking on this collective journey by engaging, empowering, and enriching our stakeholders, striving to achieve our ultimate aim of Rule of Law & Justice for All. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng gave these remarks at the Rule of Law Signature Engagement Event: A Journey of Transformation for a Sustainable Future under Hong Kong Legal Week 2021 on November 5.
05/11/2021
A Journey of Transformation for a Sustainable Future, an inaugural Rule of Law Signature Engagement Event organised by the Department of Justice today, marked the finale of Hong Kong Legal Week 2021. Delivering her welcome remarks, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng said the event aimed to provide a more in-depth discussion on topics involving specific stakeholders. The event was complementary to the Rule of Law Congress and both of them will be held in alternating years during Hong Kong Legal Week each year, she added. Ms Cheng noted that today's discussion covered crucial topics including the development of legal technology, advancing access to justice and the importance of objective data. It also touched upon how cultural, legal traditions and socio-economic factors interplay for the development of the rule of law. She said that it is expected the message of building and maintaining more equal and inclusive societies for a sustainable future in the region and beyond could be widely spread through such talks. Two dialogue sessions and a panel discussion relating to access to justice, its implications on sustainable development and legal technology were also conducted. A ceremonial opening of the hot-desking of LAWASIA was held to celebrate the first organisation joining the Department of Justice's hot-desking offices. The department will provide administrative support to the international legal professional and related organisations in arranging training, conferences or other events of mutual interest in Hong Kong. Click here for the full review of the programmes of Hong Kong Legal Week 2021.
05/11/2021
Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung has undergone a minor surgery at a hospital due to inflammation of an injured elbow, the Security Bureau said today.​Responding to media enquiries, the bureau added that Mr Tang’s work has not been affected. 
03/11/2021
Trading between Hong Kong and ASEANDespite the global downturn brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, in the age of digitalisation, e-commerce transactions have grown exponentially worldwide with the extensive use of the Internet to conduct business transactions remotely. Under the free trade agreement and the related investment agreement between ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and Hong Kong, China, cross-boundary trading between Hong Kong and ASEAN continues to flourish. The total value of merchandise trade between Hong Kong and ASEAN has grown to $1.034 trillion in 2020, with total merchandise trade growing 1.6%. Difficulties ASEAN traders are facingThe growth in trade, especially through regional e-commerce, has inevitably led to more cross-boundary disputes. Traditional means of resolving disputes by cross-boundary litigation are not a real option for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), who often face financial constraints in hiring legal representation and struggle to survive a lengthy court procedure. Staggering legal and travelling costs, coupled with language and cultural barriers, pose great difficulties for traders to obtain access to justice through domestic courts. Thus, there is a pressing need to provide traders with an avenue to obtain access to justice in a time-efficient and cost-effective manner and this is where online dispute resolution (ODR) comes into play. As a structured online platform, ODR automates traditional alternative dispute resolution methods such as negotiation, mediation and arbitration, and may provide additional features to suit the needs of MSMEs. Expeditious and affordable ODR services will improve MSMEs' accessibility to justice and alleviates traders' financial burden. This in turn boosts businesses' competitiveness and enables traders to explore new cross-boundary business opportunities. The acceleration of cross-boundary trade will enable MSMEs to thrive, expand their network into international markets and contribute to the ASEAN economy. How ODR can assist cross-boundary trade for ASEANFollowing the adoption of the UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) Technical Notes on ODR, the United Nations General Assembly observes that “online dispute resolution can assist parties in resolving the dispute in a simple, fast, flexible and secure manner, without the need for physical presence at a meeting or hearing”. In 2019, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation developed the Collaborative Framework for Online Dispute Resolution of Cross-Border Business to Business Disputes to help global businesses, in particular MSMEs, resolve business-to-business cross-boundary disputes focusing on low-value disputes. On the ASEAN front, the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 highlights the development of a regional legal framework for ODR for facilitating e-commerce transactions in ASEAN. Similarly, the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for Consumer Protection 2025 also set the goal to enhance consumer confidence and cross-boundary commercial transactions through addressing cross-boundary complaints through ODR in its Strategic Goal 3. This shows that the growing importance of ODR in doing business within and with ASEAN cannot be ignored. Hong Kong's initiativesIt is imperative for ODR initiatives in Hong Kong to grow and be driven to assist in enhancing trade with ASEAN countries, as well as enhancing access to justice. To this end, eBRAM has been established in Hong Kong to provide a full spectrum of ODR services to assist parties to resolve disputes via a secure and user-friendly online platform. We have also set up the Inclusive Global Legal Innovation Platform for Online Dispute Resolution, the iGLIP on ODR, in collaboration with the UNCITRAL, to keep track of the latest developments in the ODR landscape and develop innovative legal tools to address potential issues. We hope that our initiatives in contributing to an innovative and comprehensive ODR network will further facilitate the ECOTECH (Economic & Technical Cooperation) collaborations between ASEAN and Hong Kong, China. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng gave these remarks at the Workshop on Online Dispute Resolution: An Efficient & Cost-effective Dispute Resolution Mechanism for Cross-border Disputes for ASEAN Trade under Hong Kong Legal Week 2021 on November 3.

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