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Indeed, today's symposium has its roots in the United Nations' (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This blueprint for achieving a more sustainable future for us all was adopted in 2015. The rule of law is among the agenda's 17 goals, a pillar in providing universal access to justice and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Hong Kong's resolute response to the UN agenda in this aspect was the creation of "Vision 2030 for Rule of Law" in 2020, announced in my 2020 Policy Address. This 10-year initiative is designed to promote widespread understanding and recognition of the rule of law and its importance through intensive research, collaboration and capacity building. In less than two years' time, Vision 2030, together with a dedicated task force chaired by Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, has made excellent progress, taking forward a number of projects, locally and internationally, to advance and promote the rule of law in Hong Kong, throughout the region and beyond. The results of its dedication are now available in the "Vision 2030 Task Force Report", which was officially launched at today's symposium. The rule of law is a core value and the cornerstone of Hong Kong's success. It underpins the economic development of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Hong Kong's enviable way of life. Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal Andrew Cheung, who is with us today, said during Hong Kong Legal Week 2021, "Regardless of whether one subscribes to the thin or thick version of the rule of law, it can be confidently asserted that Hong Kong is a society which is governed by the rule of law." I fully agree with him. With the staunch support of the Central People's Government and the successful implementation of the "one country, two systems" framework, Hong Kong has come a long way as a leading international financial hub. We are, as well, the only common law jurisdiction within China. Hong Kong boasts an independent judiciary and fundamental rights and freedoms fully protected under the Basic Law. That is why Hong Kong is often the preferred choice for multinational co-operation when it comes to legal and dispute resolution services. I am proud to say that Hong Kong is internationally recognised to be underpinned by the rule of law. According to the Rule of Law Index 2021 by the World Justice Project, Hong Kong maintained its fifth overall ranking in the East Asia and Pacific region and 19th standing globally. Looking at a longer time horizon, according to the World Bank Group, Hong Kong's percentile rank in respect of the rule of law was only 69.85 in 1996; upon China's resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, Hong Kong’s score reached 82.5 in 1998 and, since 2003, has remained consistently above 90, clearly underscoring the significant advancement of the rule of law here since the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR in 1997. By and large, these results enunciate the recognition of the city's perseverance in upholding the rule of law. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR. We are determined that Hong Kong's solid foundation in the rule of law, and our legal system in general, will continue to grow and serve as a guiding principle for Hong Kong, and a model for the region, in the many more years to come. Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the Vision 2030 for Rule of Law International Symposium on May 26.
The Vision 2030 for Rule of Law International Symposium was held today in a hybrid format, bringing together officials, legal experts and academics from all over the world to examine the understanding and practice of the rule of law under various jurisdictions. Co-organised by the Department of Justice, the Asian Peace & Reconciliation Council and the Asian Academy of International Law, the symposium was one of the celebratory events for the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Welcoming remarks made by Chief Executive Carrie Lam and an opening speech by Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Hong Kong SAR Commissioner Liu Guangyuan launched the event. Judge of the International Court of Justice Xue Hanqin as well as Chairman of the Asian Peace & Reconciliation Council and former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Prof Surakiart Sathirathai also delivered keynote speeches. At the panel sessions, speakers from varied fields shared their experience and insights on three seminal issues, ie rule of law under international law, fundamental elements of the rule of law, and practice of the rule of law in different cultural contexts, thereby facilitating mutual exchanges on the understanding and practice of the rule of law among different jurisdictions. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng in her closing remarks said that the Vision 2030 for Rule of Law initiative launched by the Department of Justice in 2020 was inspired by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in particular its Goal 16 which advocates “promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensuring equal access of justice for all”. She noted that as an international city with a strong rule of law tradition, Hong Kong is most willing to contribute to Goal 16. Ms Cheng also officiated at the launch of the Vision 2030 Task Force Report at the symposium. The report details the fruits of the Department of Justice's and the task force's intensive work since the launch of Vision 2030 in devising a methodology for objectively reviewing the development and practice of the rule of law as well as on promoting the proper understanding and recognition of the rule of law, thereby contributing to the sustainable development of inclusive and fair societies at both the local and international levels. Click here for the report.
This Vision 2030 for Rule of Law International is one of the enhanced celebration events for the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, as well as the first part of a series of events of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to be followed by the Legal Conference on Basic Law tomorrow, and then the National Security Law Legal Forum on May 28. Today's symposium has been highly successful and thought-provoking, providing a valuable opportunity to gather together local, Mainland, regional and international speakers for insightful exchanges on the proper understanding of the rule of law. I am delighted to note that we have over 700 registered participants from around 40 jurisdictions. Vision 2030 for Rule of Law The 17 goals under the 2030 agenda for sustainable development were adopted by all member states of the United Nations to address global challenges, including poverty, inequality, climate change, peace and justice, etc. The 17 goals are interconnected with the rule of law being a pillar for its successful implementation. In 2020, the DoJ launched a 10-year project titled "Vision 2030 for Rule of Law". Its vision is underpinned by Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda and Target 16.3 in particular, which is to promote the rule of law at national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all. It is the DoJ's commitment to build and maintain a fair and rule-based society underpinned by the rule of law through collaboration with stakeholders towards sustainable development. Rule of law is often quoted and referred to but as Senior Partner of Strachan Partners Yemi Candide-Johnson asked just now, we must know what is its purpose, and sometimes we have to ask ourselves what is it that we want out of this universal value. In legal parlance, rule of law would be represented by principles such as observance of due process, equality before the law, access to justice, efficient and fair dispute resolution mechanism administered by an independent and impartial tribunal, etc. But stripped of the legalistic and scholarly terminologies or principles, may I venture to suggest that perhaps at its core, or at the very least, what we yearn for from the rule of law, is to ensure fairness and peaceful co-existence with mutual respect. This is so, I would venture to suggest, at national levels governing the relations between people and people and the government, and also at the international level, where the world order is at stake. The rule of law remains the cornerstone of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's success, both as an international financial centre and an international legal, deal-making and dispute resolution hub. According to the Worldwide Governance Indicators by the World Bank, Hong Kong's rule of law percentile ranking steadily increased in the past 25 years from 69.85% in 1996 and since 2003 above 90%. Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Hong Kong SAR Liu Guangyuan has rightly pointed out in his opening speech today that "one country, two systems" has developed on the track of rule of law, and in return rule of law has fostered the successful implementation of "one country, two systems", with the importance of rule of law being a key to maintaining Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, improving our governance and enhancing our competitiveness. Hong Kong's future is also guaranteed by the strong backing of our motherland and the unique advantages of "one country, two systems". One crucial aspect for sustainable development envisaged under the 2030 Agenda is that the rule of law is fundamental to international peace and security and political stability, and strengthened rule-of-law-based society should be considered as an outcome of the 2030 Agenda & Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, in the keynote speech by Judge of International Court of Justice Xue Hanqin, she started and ended her speech by referring to the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence initiated in 1954 by China, India and Burma (now Myanmar) declaring that they would develop their relations on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence. She reminded us of the wise words of Premier Zhou Enlai who said "if these principles are observed by all, countries of different social systems could live in peace." The Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence are in line with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, Articles 1 and 2 in particular. Article 2 lays down, inter alia, the principles of sovereign equality of states, peaceful settlement of international disputes and non-intervention of internal affairs of other states. In her recount of the development of the world order, Mr Xue also reminded us of the Bandung Conference where Asian and African states enunciated the Ten Principles of Bandung which encompasses, amongst others, the essential elements of international relations including sovereign equality of states, territorial integrity, peaceful co-existence, multilateralism and mutual co-operation, stressing settlement of international disputes by peaceful means. This, she highlighted, was the first time that developing countries, collectively, made their voices heard in promoting a fairer and perhaps a less Euro-centric world order. The importance of this breakthrough cannot be overstated. The setting up of Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) and its work now to provide the perspectives from Asian and African states in the study and research on various topics on international law should make an important impact on its codification and progressive development that will reflect a genuine world order. Strengthening universal peace is one of the important purposes of the United Nations (UN) as conveyed in the UN Charter. However, in order to maintain and safeguard peace and security throughout the world, the principle of sovereign equality must be genuinely observed. It calls for mutuality in respect, self-restraint, non-intervention. To put these principles into practice, international dialogue and diplomatic channels are vital. Whilst States remain the major and decisive players for the direction of international law development, two anomalies call for attention. Unilateral acts of major powers have the tendency to usurp the fine balance struck in international co-operation and multilateralism premised usually on equality and mutual respect. A tilt in the balance will not be conducive to a rule-based world order that aims for peaceful co-existence. Double standards in the application of international law is plainly impossible to justify. Put simply, it is just not fair. As explained by the panelists this morning, it is evident that international law has strengthened the rule of law in international affairs and contributed to the maintenance of world peace and promotion of international co-operation. Importantly, international law is setting norms and rules that are reflected in national law and domestic practice. It is no longer just a matter that affects States and international relations, but it is, as Mr Xue pointed out, affecting our lives in all ways. We want to look at in the afternoon how the rule of law is practised at the national level in a diverse and inclusive global order. For the panel discussions this afternoon, we have heard that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the system of rule of law. In his opening speech this morning, Mr Liu rightly pointed out that different countries have developed different rule of law practices that fit their specific national conditions, creating a diverse legal civilisation, with there being no best model or standard version of rule of law. Our Chief Justice Andrew Cheung has also pointed out in his speech during the Hong Kong Legal Week 2021 that a particular version of the rule of law which functions well in one jurisdiction may not necessarily be transplanted into another jurisdiction; further, due regard must be given to the unique circumstances and context of the particular jurisdiction concerned. Imposing one society's standard of rule of law on another would be contrary to the universal principle of inclusiveness, which is not conducive to the creation of a sustainable international order. Chairman of the Asian Peace & Reconciliation Council and former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Prof Surakiart Sathirathai also reiterated the point that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the rule of law in his keynote speech. Instead, as he mentioned, understanding cultures is the key to success in shaping the rule of law, which leads to successful application and enforcement of law. This is shown by the example as illustrated in his speech on the late King of Thailand's successful initiative in taking into account cultural differences in curbing the level of illicit cultivation. Prof Surakiart also shared his insightful views on the important role of the rule of law in the age of digital economy which needs to be fairly regulated so that it can assist in promoting, amongst others, the rule of law by bridging inter-generation gap and dialogue. To me, the most important take that I have from Prof Surakiart's speech is that, unless there is a recognition and respect for different cultures and traditions across different jurisdictions, it will be difficult to achieve sustainable development for rule of law. That said, notwithstanding different societal values and socio-political systems, there exists commonly shared values and basic fundamental elements of the rule of law, although the degree of the respect for such shared values may differ across jurisdictions as we hear from the sharing of Secretary General of Japan International Dispute Resolution Center Prof Yoshihisa Hayakawa, Head of the Center for National Index of Rule of Law of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Prof Tian He and Professor of Law of Tsinghua University Prof Zhang Yuejiao. On the other hand, different jurisdictions and regions have unique and diverse cultural, geographical, socio-economic, socio-political and legal traditions which may colour upon the way of how they have been practising the rule of law. To take but a few examples, we hear from Prof Tian and Prof Zhang noting that one important characteristic of the rule of law practised in China is people-centric. Mr Liu observed that the rule of virtue is equally important "以德為本，以刑輔之" - virtue is the basis and the law is to supplement. Indeed these features may actually tally with a number of Asian cultures, and it is common for example that Asian traditions of harmony have a preference to resolve disputes amicably through mediation or conciliation in contrast to litigious societies which stress on determining who is the winning party in a dispute. The sharing from the Iranian Consul-General Alireza Esmaeil Zadeh we hear how the foundation of the Iranian legal system and its rule of law is Sharia law-based and of course Sharia law as he explained is an expression of divine will. Yet, we hear how the common essence of rule of law principles, as we now describe, such as equality before the law, independent judiciary and supremacy of law, can also have strong roots in the Islamic legal traditions. In Africa, we hear from Yemi about people generally sharing and being more accustomed to the substantive customary law and practice, and therefore those are matters that all to be taken into account when looking at the practice of the rule of law. Given the importance of rule of law for a society's success and sustainable development, to foster the progress and practice of the rule of law, as well as to improve public understanding and awareness of the rule of law, it is considered that there should be an objective mechanism to review and monitor progress and practice of rule of law which can facilitate further research and capacity building. This is also the backdrop of the launch of the Vision 2030 initiative back in 2020. Alongside the launch of Vision 2030, the Task Force on Vision 2030 for Rule of Law was established, with membership comprising internationally renowned experts and academics, to advance the work for effective implementation of the initiatives under Vision 2030. To summarise the discussions of the task force, the recommendations that have been made were the proposed indicators which may form the "common denominators" of the rule of law, should be used as a starting point for formulating an objective methodology to review the practice of the rule of law. The task force also observed that varying practices of rule of law in different regions and/or jurisdictions attributable to their unique cultures, socio-economic features and legal traditions, etc, should be integrated to gain a fair and objective overview of the "basic fundamentals" of the rule of law in a wide range of jurisdictions. The task force also noted that it would be more meaningful for a rule of law review mechanism to be based on objective data and information rather than perception-based and subjective elements so as to generate useful and empirical evidence about the actual situation of the rule of law practices in different jurisdictions. The importance of developing an objective review mechanism of rule of law for enhancing successful implementation of the rule of law has been supported by legal experts as we see in the panel discussions today. With the guidance of the task force, the DoJ launched an objective rule of law database in November 2021, as one of the important projects under the Vision 2030 initiative. Looking forward, the methodology for the objective review mechanism would be devised. This would involve complex consideration of appropriate ways to convert data into appropriate "referencing points", as well as to consider how to reflect or evaluate the practice of the rule of law when culture, socio-economic, socio-political, legal traditions are to be taken into account. The need to engage professional specialists in the fields of economics and social science, etc, to further research on the interplay between cultural factors and the practice of the rule of law is recognised. On this front, the DoJ has recently signed a framework arrangement for collaboration with the Chinese Institute of Hong Kong, which is authorised by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). In the earlier panel session this afternoon, we have also benefited from the sharing of Prof Tian He, Head of the Center for National Index of Rule of Law of CASS, about the main factors underlining the rule of law in. The invaluable advice and guidance of the task force members on how to promote the proper understanding and recognition of the rule of law at regional and international levels are captured in the task force report, which marks a milestone of the Vision 2030 initiative. Looking ahead, the DoJ will take forward the insightful and pragmatic recommendations as set out in the task force report. I must once again thank the task force members for their dedicated work and invaluable inputs these two years. Now, I am delighted to announce that the task force report is officially launched. An e-copy of the report is available on the website of the Vision 2030 for Rule of Law, and a hard copy is available onsite the venue for all the guests and participants. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to conclude my remarks by echoing what Council Member of the Asian Peace & Reconciliation Council Jose Isidro (Lito) N Camacho commented. To achieve sustainable development as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda, it has to be by collective work and collaboration, not to use a zero-sum game approach, but to adopt and use a win-win approach. I also totally agree with what Mr Camacho has pointed out, and that is to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, we need active participation from the business sectors. He has shared the needs of the business sectors, which are the stability of law, predictability of law, consultation and formulation of laws, transparency and equal and consistent interpretation and application of laws. I am sure the legal community and the governments would have heard and bear in mind these very important words so that we can all join hands in achieving the sustainable development of rule of law. And the DoJ looks forward to further engagement and collaboration with you all. Thank you very much. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng gave these remarks at the Vision 2030 for Rule of Law International Symposium on May 26.
The Government is making preparatory work to clearly define the cyber security obligations of critical infrastructure operators through legislation, with a view to strengthening the cyber security of this infrastructure in Hong Kong. Secretary for Innovation & Technology Alfred Sit made the remarks when answering questions from lawmaker Johnny Ng in the Legislative Council today, saying that a public consultation exercise is expected to be launched by the end of this year. He emphasised that critical infrastructure is of great significance to the normal operation of society. If information systems, networks or computer systems are disrupted or sabotaged, the operation of major facilities may be affected and this will seriously jeopardise the economy, people's livelihood, public safety and even national security. Noting that the increase in cyber attacks in recent years has brought substantial challenges to the cyber security of critical infrastructure around the world, Mr Sit said Hong Kong does not have specific legal requirements on the cyber security of such infrastructure. Therefore, in addition to industry best practices as well as guidelines and requirements on cyber security imposed by individual regulatory authorities, the Government is making preparations to clearly define the cyber security obligations of critical infrastructure operators through legislation in order to enhance the cyber security of critical infrastructure in the city. It will also refer to the cyber security standards adopted worldwide and by other jurisdictions in formulating relevant standards. Mr Sit stressed that the Government has been closely monitoring the trends of cyber attacks and the associated security threats around the globe. The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer has formulated a comprehensive set of Government IT Security Policy & Guidelines which are reviewed and updated regularly. All bureaus and departments must strictly abide by the policy and guidelines to ensure the security of government data and information systems. Moreover, government websites and systems have adopted multiple layers of security measures to detect, block and tackle different types of security threats.
The Government will put forward regulatory recommendations on four common types of online crowdfunding activities for public consultation later this year after it completes a review of the regulation of crowdfunding. Secretary for Financial Services & the Treasury Christopher Hui told legislators today that the review aims to provide clearer regulatory requirements and to strengthen the transparency and accountability of crowdfunding activities, so as to prevent illegal acts and protect public interests. He said equity crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, donation-based crowdfunding, and reward or pre-sale-based crowdfunding will fall under the scope of the Government’s review. He pointed out that by donation-based crowdfunding, funds are raised for making donations to charitable activities or other causes such as making donations for political activities. Meanwhile, through reward or pre-sale-based crowdfunding, fundraisers provide goods or services in return for funds provided by contributors. Mr Hui said the Government will put forward corresponding regulatory recommendations in the public consultation later this year in order to avoid people making use of fraudulent crowdfunding activities for potentially illegal purposes. The public consultation will cover specific contents of the future regulatory framework, from the scope of crowdfunding activities to be regulated to enforcement arrangement, he added.
The AALCO Hong Kong Regional Arbitration Centre, under the auspices of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) was officially opened today. At the opening ceremony, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng said she hoped that together with the existing AALCO arbitration centres in Malaysia, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran and Kenya, the centre will stand united by the ideals of friendship and collaboration by promoting trade and investment in the Asian-African region. She also thanked the Central People's Government and the AALCO for their staunch support and trust. Ms Cheng said that the Department of Justice looks forward to working with the centre and the legal and dispute resolution community to promote Hong Kong as an international legal and dispute resolution hub. The AALCO is the only inter-governmental legal consultative organisation in the Asian and African region comprising almost all the major states from Asia and Africa. Regional arbitration centres under its auspices function as international institutions with the objective of promoting international commercial arbitration in the Asian-African region and conducting international arbitrations. Adding to the five existing regional arbitration centres, the centre in Hong Kong will act as a co-ordinating agency in the AALCO dispute settlement system, aiming to promote the growth and effective functioning of arbitration institutions and other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services, including online dispute resolution services, to promote the wider application of various ADR rules within the Asian and Pacific region, to provide facilities for ADR services and to provide assistance in the enforcement of arbitral awards. Located at the Shanghai Commercial Bank Tower in Central, the centre forms part of the Hong Kong Legal Hub.
The Judiciary today published the 2022 Guide to Judicial Conduct, an update to the 2004 edition. In the years since the judicial conduct guide was first published in 2004, the topic of judicial conduct has seen much discussion and development. Given the increasingly complex conditions in which judging takes place and the increased public interest in the work of judges and judicial officers (JJOs), the Judiciary considers it an appropriate time to review and update the guide. It has been revised to take into account the impact of the advancement in information technology, particularly the use of social media in daily life. The guidance on recusal and apparent bias has also been updated with reference to recent case law in this area. General principles on handling cases involving public controversies, as well as guidance on behaviour in court and making comments on parties and other people when performing judicial functions are also included. Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal Andrew Cheung said: "I am confident that this new edition of the guide will continue to provide useful guidance to JJOs in maintaining the highest standards of judicial conduct and enable the public to better understand our judicial work and the uncompromised standards we set for ourselves."
Over the years, the use of technology has not only facilitated the day-to-day practice of the legal industry, but also strengthened Hong Kong’s position as the leading centre for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific Region. The Department of Justice (DoJ) is always committed to encouraging and supporting the legal sector to strengthen lawtech capabilities as we move towards popularising lawtech in the long run. In this regard, I am glad to share with you the good news that the Electronic Business Related Arbitration & Mediation International Online Dispute Resolution Centre (eBRAM Centre) has been listed as one of the providers for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Collaborative Framework for Online Dispute Resolution of Cross-Border Business-to-Business Disputes (APEC ODR Framework). In August 2019, the APEC Economic Committee endorsed the APEC ODR Framework and model procedural rules, with micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) as the major beneficiary. The APEC ODR Framework promotes the use of ODR by global enterprises, MSMEs in particular, to resolve low-value cross-border disputes. Hong Kong had opted into the APEC ODR Framework in April 2020. Representatives from Hong Kong, including experts from the eBRAM Centre, have been participating actively in the work under the APEC ODR Framework such as various APEC workshops and webinars as well as the APEC Economic Committee meetings. In June 2021, the eBRAM Centre launched the APEC ODR procedural rules tailor-made for the APEC ODR Framework, which aims to provide a fast and affordable resort to commercial disputes among the APEC economies to MSMEs through the use of electronic communications and other information technologies. In February 2022, the eBRAM Centre indicated to APEC its commitment to become an ODR service provider for APEC economies and certified its compliance with the APEC ODR Framework and its Model Procedural Rules. Earlier this month, the eBRAM Centre was officially listed by APEC on its website as one of the very first batch of ODR service providers under the APEC ODR Framework. This encouraging international development, together with the ongoing work undertaken by the Inclusive Global Legal Innovation Platform on ODR with support by the DoJ Project Office for Collaboration with UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) would further contribute to the international development and usage of ODR, which will, at the same time, strengthen the position of Hong Kong as a leading international dispute resolution centre. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on May 15.
The Government today stated that any law enforcement actions taken by the law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law and for the acts of the people concerned, and have absolutely nothing to do with their profession or religion. It made the statement in response to media enquiries about five trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund arrested by Police's National Security Department. The Government said that no one is above the law, nor can anyone break the law without bearing responsibilities. No one enjoys privileges and if there is evidence that anyone has violated the law, he or she must face justice regardless of his or her status or background. Police investigations revealed that the arrested people are alleged to have begged foreign countries or external institutions to impose sanctions against Hong Kong, and are suspected of committing the offence of conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security, in contravention of Article 29 of the National Security Law. The Government pointed out that acts and activities that endanger national security may have very serious consequences, and actions must be taken to prevent and suppress such acts and activities, to ensure that individuals endangering national security will face legal consequences. The Government stressed that the fundamental rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents are guaranteed under the Basic Law. Article 4 of the National Security Law also clearly stipulates that human rights shall be respected and protected in safeguarding national security in Hong Kong; the rights and freedoms that Hong Kong residents enjoy under the Basic Law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong shall be protected in accordance with the law. The Government added it will continue to guard against any acts and activities endangering national security. Law enforcement departments will handle all people impartially in accordance with the law, regardless of their background.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng today spoke to lawyers on Hong Kong’s opportunities as an international and legal dispute resolution centre under the National 14th Five-Year Plan at a webinar. At the event attended by about 200 in-house counsel and lawyers in private practice, Ms Cheng pointed out that the 14th Five-Year Plan and the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area confirms the national policy to support Hong Kong to establish itself as the centre for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region. In this regard, measures rolled out by the Department of Justice, including the mutual recognition of and assistance to bankruptcy proceedings, matrimonial and family arrangements, and the soon-to-be enforced reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, provide a broad coverage of mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters between Hong Kong and the Mainland, facilitating the city’s integration into the country’s overall development. In the area of arbitration, she highlighted that following the signing of the interim measures arrangement with the Mainland, parties to arbitral proceedings seated in Hong Kong and administered by the six eligible arbitral institutions can now apply directly to the Mainland courts for interim measures. Besides, with the Outcome Related Fee Structures for Arbitration which will soon be in place, she is confident that the increasing client demand for pricing and fee flexibility will be met, hence reinforcing Hong Kong’s status as a leading arbitration centre. She also noted that the Regulations of the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Co-operation Zone of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, as well as the Opinions of the Supreme People’s Court on Providing Judicial Guarantee for the Building of Pilot Free Trade Zones demonstrate the feasibility for wholly owned Hong Kong enterprises to adopt Hong Kong law and choose for arbitration to be seated in Hong Kong. The department is now seeking a further liberalisation initiative for these enterprises with relevant Mainland authorities and striving to better implement such measures. On the support for online dispute resolution and lawtech, Ms Cheng announced that the eBRAM International Online Dispute Resolution Centre has been listed as one of the providers for the APEC Collaborative Framework for Online Dispute Resolution of Cross-Border Business-to-Business Disputes. Furthermore, the Hong Kong Legal Cloud has been launched to enable the provision of safe, secure and affordable data storage services for the local legal and dispute resolution sectors. In closing, Ms Cheng encouraged the legal practitioners to take part in the Second GBA Legal Professional Examination to seize the opportunities brought about by national policies, and advised them to capitalise on their strengths and complement national development.