Two former senior Hong Kong officials have urged authorities to highlight the city’s judicial independence under Beijing’s “one country, two systems” principle, as there have been “misconceptions” internationally regarding the local legal system.
The advice, from former justice chief Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung SC, and former financial chief Antony Leung Kam-chung, came as the political discourse on Hong Kong focused on the importance of national identity and sovereignty.
Hong Kong was guaranteed a high degree of autonomy as part of the handover to China in 1997.
Speaking at a business summit, Yuen said he heard people from the United States and Singapore telling others that if they were ever involved in a commercial dispute with a mainland company they should never “proceed to arbitration or resolve the disputes in Hong Kong”.
Yuen dismissed such ideas as “misconceptions” and stressed his position that Hong Kong enjoyed judicial independence, and all lawsuits were handled professionally despite the city being part of China.
Clarifying these misconceptions was important, he added, when discussing the potential of turning Hong Kong into an international arbitration centre for the 70 countries and regions included in China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”.
Leung echoed the importance of highlighting the ‘two systems’ aspect of the ruling principle.
“Hong Kong now has to integrate into the national development,” Leung said. “But sometimes, people have the impression that one country has been emphasised more often than two systems.”
Sometimes, people have the impression that one country has been emphasised more often than two systems
Antony Leung Kam-chung, ex-financial secretary
He added that this approach existed in different sectors, such as education, and said the city appeared to be taking part in fewer international conferences in that area in recent years.
Leung served as the chairman of the education commission from 1998 to 2001 and was the city’s financial secretary from 2001 to 2003, while Yuen was the secretary for justice from 2012 until he returned to private practice in January.
Leung now chairs the Nan Fung Group, a regional conglomerate engaging in real estate and investment businesses.
Speaking at the same World Chinese Entrepreneurs Summit, which was organised by the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said Hong Kong could give full play to the dual advantages of one country, two systems and become an international hub of the Belt and Road, as well as international science and technology innovation centre of the “Greater Bay Area” – the national plan to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities into a powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley.
Meanwhile, a group of local officials met their counterparts from Shanghai on Thursday to discuss how to further enhance cooperation in the financial field.
Lam, and Shanghai mayor Ying Yong, are expected to sign agreements on Friday on multiple areas of cooperation, ranging from business and education to the law.
Additional reporting by Tony Cheung