Hong Kong and the Belt and Road: A Legal Perspective
The Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”) focuses on development strategies connecting and enhancing cooperation between China and countries
and on integrating of policies and economic imperatives among them.
As an international financial centre, Hong Kong plays an important role in providing a viable financial platform to infrastructure and other development projects under the BRI. At the same time, Hong Kong is also a popular forum of choice for handling and adjudicating cross-border disputes given its independent, comprehensive and effective judiciary system with jury trials and the availability of talented legal professionals. Hong Kong is well-positioned to play a key role in the BRI by providing a legal hub for dispute resolution. To achieve this, it is crucial to make Hong Kong’s judicial system and alternative dispute resolution institutions more accessible to parties from BRI countries. Currently, there are challenges facing foreign parties seeking to enforce and defend their rights in Hong Kong.
A few practical examples are as follows:
lack of knowledge of the judicial system of Hong Kong, and access to information on the proper venue / courts to initiate their actions;
obtain a comparison of litigation procedures of Hong Kong and a foreign party’s country of origin or other country of relevance;
no easy way to find lawyers for legal advice and representation, especially where a party is only passing through Hong Kong on business trips or leisure travel, and they need to find assistance in a short time;
language barrier in understanding the relevant laws and regulations;
guidance to access to legal aid schemes and pro bono services in Hong Kong.*
* Individuals who are not resident of Hong Kong are qualified to apply for legal aid schemes of the Legal Aid Department of the Government of Hong Kong SAR. Other than legal aid services, the legal communities in Hong Kong offers a variety of pro bono services to the public for advancing human rights, for example, the Justice Centre of Hong Kong (http://www.justicecentre.org.hk/), the Hong Kong Center for Pro Bono (http://www.probono.org.hk/) and the Global Network for Public Interest Law (PILnet) (http://www.pilnet.org/).
Separately, technical solutions may also be utilized by legal communities in Hong Kong, allowing them to connect with and serve individuals seeking legal assistance. You are encouraged to design solutions in the September hackathon that employ technology to resolve challenges faced by parties from the BRI countries in enforcing or defending their rights in Hong Kong. The challenges do not have to be limited to those listed above. Hong Kong has a well-established common law system with many experienced jurists and legal professionals. In any case, better sharing of legal information among the BRI countries would be beneficial to strengthening the rule of law in the region. Technology solution can play an important role in this regard to facilitate communication and collaboration over the Internet, including social media platforms and online forums