Following is a speech delivered by the Solicitor General, Mr Robert Allcock, at a seminar on "Legal Landscape of China after accession to WTO" today (September 7):
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour for me to be invited to speak at today's seminar. It brings together leading members of the legal and other service industries, plus experts in WTO issues, from the Mainland, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
This is not the first conference to explore the implications for the legal profession of China's accession to the WTO. However, since this is a subject of great historic and practical significance, we need to keep abreast of on-going developments and to engage in a continuing dialogue. Today's seminar is therefore a great opportunity for us to explore one fundamental question. How can we best work together for the mutual benefit of service providers and consumers within China, and in the interests of national development?
The constitutional arrangement
Let me start with the big picture. The constitutional landscape within which we operate is unique. The Mainland and the Hong Kong SAR are, of course, part of one country. But they have separate memberships of the WTO.
The fact that Hong Kong's economic and legal systems are separate and distinct from those of the Mainland are fundamental features of our new constitutional order. Hong Kong's separate membership of the WTO is a reflection of those separate and distinct systems. That separate membership has, in the past, brought tremendous benefits to Hong Kong, both economically and politically. It has been a source of international confidence in Hong Kong, and has provided reassurance to international investors.
Now that the Mainland's economy is developing so rapidly, some people are wondering if there are ways in which the "one country" can transcend these separate memberships. It is only natural that the members of one country should want to share in the opportunities that economic development of that country brings. We should therefore explore all lawful ways of achieving this. But we must ensure that WTO rules are strictly complied with.
In this respect, the attitude of the Central Government is quite clear. It gives staunch support to the SAR Government by encouraging Hong Kong to promote its services in the Mainland and to develop a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement. However, the Central Government also emphasizes that it will strictly comply with its obligations under the WTO.
In my talk this morning, I propose firstly to outline the key WTO commitments relating to legal services that must be complied with. I will then explore ways in which the legal profession can respond to those commitments. I am sure that other speakers, and delegates, at this seminar will contribute other ideas.
China's WTO commitments
As a WTO member, China is obliged to comply with the general obligations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) relating to all services. Under the most-favoured-nation requirement provided in Article II of GATS, each member is in general required to accord all WTO members the same treatment that it provides to any WTO member. So far as legal services are concerned, therefore, China must give equal treat to all WTO members, including Hong Kong.
In addition, China has made specific commitments in relation to foreign legal services. But those specific commitments are subject to a number of restrictions.
(1) At present, a foreign law firm can set up a representative office only in 19 specified cities, and it can only establish one representative office in China. However these two limitations will be removed one year after China's accession to the WTO.
(2) Foreign representative offices can only provide legal services relating to the law of the country or region where their lawyers are permitted to practise, or relating to international conventions and practices. They can also provide legal services through a long-term entrustment agreement with a Chinese law firm and can provide information on the impact of the Chinese legal environment.
(3) Representatives of a foreign law firm must be lawyers who are members of the bar or law society in a WTO member, and who have practised for no less than two years outside of China. The chief representative must be a partner or equivalent of the law firm and have practised for no less than three years. All representatives must reside in China for no less than six months each year. And there is a prohibition against the employment of Chinese national registered lawyers by representative offices.
China did not make any specific commitments on the practice of Chinese law. In other words, there is no obligation on China to abide by the market access and national treatment provisions under GATS, and as a result, can choose not to open up its market for Chinese law practice. [The market access provision under Art XVI of GATS forbids limitations imposed by WTO Members on the number of service providers, for example by way of quotas, numerical limitations, or monopolies. The national treatment provision under Art XVII of GATS acts as an equal protection clause for foreign lawyers as compared to domestic lawyers. This provision prohibits regulators from providing foreign lawyers with treatment that is less favourable than the treatment it accords to domestic lawyers.]
Another major general obligation of GATS relates to the transparency of laws. All relevant measures relating to services must be published or otherwise publicly available. This requirement will help to improve the legal system of China by making domestic regulations more open and accessible. This, in turn, should stimulate foreign trade and investment.
As a WTO member, China is subject to the dispute settlement system embodied in the WTO. That system covers all the multilateral trade agreements that are applicable to trade in goods or services, and to intellectual property issues arising from the TRIPs Agreement. It is also applicable to disputes arising under the plurilateral Government Procurement Agreement. Since the dispute settlement system is a law-based system, it is expected that there will be a strong demand for legal experts in China to deal with disputes relating to anti-dumping and countervailing duty. This gives rise to opportunities for lawyers who wish to develop their expertise in this growing area of work.
Hong Kong's strengths and challenges
In formulating strategies as to how Hong Kong lawyers should respond to these commitments, it may be helpful to consider what Hong Kong's strengths and challenges are.
(1) We have a sound legal system, based upon the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and common law principles which are widely recognized and respected by the international business sector;
(2) we have a wealth of English-speaking legal practitioners and internationally renowned arbitrators specializing in litigation and arbitration services; and a wealth of Chinese-speaking practitioners with knowledge of China, of market operations in the Mainland, and of China law, who are experienced in handling the negotiation and preparation of Mainland legal documentation;
(3) Hong Kong is a world centre of expertise in commerce, finance, I.T., shipping and construction, with an enormous pool of experienced professionals offering specialist advice and assistance in dispute resolution;
(4) we have an ideal geographic location, which enables Hong Kong lawyers and Mainland investors to conduct business efficiently and cost-effectively;
(5) we have a combination of superb infrastructure, first rate communication and transport systems, and excellent choices of accommodation;
(6) we have the world-class Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre which makes over 300 awards each year.
So much for Hong Kong's strengths. What about its challenges? The Hong Kong SAR is in the course of economic restructuring, and this is imposing many demands on all sectors of the community. The legal profession, in particular, can no longer depend on conveyancing as a major source of business. Many lawyers see the need to develop new areas of expertise, including providing services in the Mainland and WTO-related services. The development of new expertise is never easy, but fortunately the law schools at Hong Kong University and City University are now offering many relevant postgraduate courses. The proposed reforms of legal education and training in Hong Kong also offer new opportunities. It is hoped that a four-year bachelor of laws degree, and a reformed professional training course will enable future law students to gain specialised knowledge and skills that will help them to develop Mainland-related services.
Mainland strengths and challenges
Let me now turn to the Mainland's strengths. Foreign investment in China is expected to increase dramatically as new areas of trade and investment open up. China will provide a competitive production base for exports and will increase imports as a result of lowering tariffs. It is committed to relax foreign investment restrictions on many important service industries, including distribution services, telecommunications, financial services, professional services, audio-visual equipment and tourism. As a result, foreign investors will need expert legal advice in the negotiation and conclusion of China-related agreements, and legal services in resolving disputes arising from those agreements.
In the past decade, great progress has been made towards the target of ruling the Mainland according to the law, and in progressing from "rule by law" to the "rule of law". To facilitate economic development, a series of important commercial laws and regulations have been introduced, e.g. the Guarantee Law, the Law on Commercial Banks, the Company Law, the Arbitration Law, the Securities Law and the Contract Law.
To improve law enforcement and the management of judicial and legal personnel, the Judges Law, the Procurators Law and the Lawyers Law were introduced. These laws strengthen the regulation and supervision of legal personnel, by ensuring that they meet professional standards and by laying down rules and codes of practice.
Recently, an important step has been taken in improving the quality of judges, lawyers and procurators when a Uniform National Judicial Examination was established. More than 310,000 candidates sat the first such examination in March this year, of whom approximately 24,000 candidates were successful.
There are, however, challenges ahead. The legal profession in the Mainland is developing rapidly. But of the 110,000 Mainland lawyers, only about 5,000 possess a foreign language skill and are capable of handling international legal practice, and most of them are located in large coastal cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. It is not easy to find lawyers in middle and small-sized cities who are able to provide legal services on foreign-related business. The opening up of the Western Region will generate great demand for high quality legal services in the West. Foreign law firms will surely watch for opportunities to capture a large share of the foreign-related businesses.
Foreign-related cases will pose new challenges for Mainland courts. China's accession to the WTO poses stricter requirements on China's judicial system. Despite the significant reforms that have been introduced in recent years, there is still much to be done to establish a fairer, more open and procedurally enhanced adjudication system to meet the WTO's requirements. Furthermore, it will be difficult, within a short period of time, to train sufficient judges with an international perspective, who are familiar with the WTO regulations and international business practices.
As we try to develop strategies towards Mainland-related legal services, it would be sensible to factor-in the strengths of, and challenges faced by, lawyers in Hong Kong and the Mainland. Let me turn now to various possibilities. The first is entering the Mainland legal services market.
Entering the Mainland legal services market
For many years now, both foreign and Hong Kong law firms have been exploring the opportunities presented by establishing a branch office in the Mainland. The latest published statistics indicate that 104 branches of foreign firms and 40 branches of Hong Kong firms have been established there.
Until recently, the establishment of these offices was regulated by Provisional Mainland Regulations issued in 1992. Under that regime, there were three significant restrictions :-
(1) each foreign law firm was only allowed to open one branch in one city in the
(2) foreign law firms were not allowed to give advice on PRC law [Art. 16 of the
(3) foreign law firms were prohibited from employing Chinese lawyers [Art. 17 of the Provisional Regulations].
The Provisional Regulations were replaced, so far as foreign lawyers were concerned, by new Regulations that took effect on 1 January this year. They are the Regulations on the Management of Representative Offices set up by Foreign Law Firms in China. The restrictions on foreign law firms practising Chinese law, and on hiring Mainland lawyers, have not been lifted. However, the new Regulations represent significant progress in the law governing foreign lawyers in two respects.
(1) Under the Provisional Regulations, the criteria for establishing a representative office in the Mainland were not set out. The new Regulations set out in clear terms the criteria, and the circumstances in which a licence for a representative office will be granted or cancelled. Foreign law firms will therefore be in a much better position to assess their prospects before deciding whether to set up offices in the Mainland.
(2) While the Provisional Regulations did not mention the possibility of any form of working relationship between foreign representative offices and Mainland law firms, the new Regulations expressly allow them to enter into long term entrustment relationships. The new Regulations also provide that, acting under an entrustment agreement with a Chinese law firm, a representative office or its representatives may also make direct contact with lawyers of the entrusted Chinese law firm.
Some Hong Kong lawyers hoped that the new Regulations that would apply to their representative offices in the Mainland would be more favourable than those for foreign lawyers. But, given the most-favoured-nation principle and China's strict adherence to its WTO commitments, this hope was not realistic. The Measures for the Management of Representative Offices set up by Law Firms of the Hong Kong and Macau SARs in the Mainland, which came into effect on 1 April this year, are almost identical to the Regulations relating to foreign law firms.
Both foreign and Hong Kong law firms are prohibited from advising on Chinese law. This restriction is understandable. If outside firms were allowed to employ Chinese lawyers, it would be easy for them to capture the cream of the Mainland's talent by offering high salaries and a springboard for emigration to other countries. This would impede the development of Mainland firms. Moreover, the restriction is WTO compatible because China is not committed to open up its services in respect of China law.
Under the new Regulations, the legal services provided by foreign and Hong Kong law firms are confined to five areas -
(1) consultancy services relating to the law of the jurisdiction from which the foreign or Hong Kong lawyers obtained their qualifications, or relating to international law and practices;
(2) handling legal matters relating to that other jurisdiction;
(3) engaging Chinese law firms to handle matters involving Chinese law;
(4) engaging in a long term entrustment relationship with a Chinese law firm in the handling of legal matters; and
(5) providing information relating to the impact of the Chinese legal environment.
There are two other significant restrictions under the new Regulations -
* no representative office shall employ any practising Chinese lawyer, and no supporting staff employed shall provide legal services;
* a representative of a representative office shall reside within the territory of China not less than six months a year.
On 4 July this year, the Ministry of Justice promulgated Stipulations concerning the Enforcement of the "Regulations on the Management of Representative Offices set up by Foreign Law Firms in China", which came into effect on 1 September 2002. These Stipulations provide that foreign lawyers must make it clear to their clients that they may not provide any services in respect of China law and are not China law consultants. The Stipulations also provide that there should not be any form of association or joint venture which involves the sharing of profits and risks between foreign firms and Mainland firms. It remains to be seen whether similar provisions will be made under the Measures relating to Hong Kong and Macau law firms.
Since foreign and Hong Kong lawyers cannot, as such, advise on Chinese law, the question arises as to whether they may qualify to be China lawyers and then give such advice. In one year, namely 1994, Hong Kong lawyers were permitted to take the National Lawyers Qualification Examination, but since then they have not been permitted to do this.
In recent years, the Law Society and Bar Association proposed that the national examination should again be opened to Hong Kong lawyers. Although the talks on this subject appeared to be progressing, the proposal has been put on hold because of the recent introduction of the Uniform National Judicial Examination for judges, procurators and lawyers.
If Hong Kong lawyers are, at some time in the future, allowed to sit this examination, it would of course be conducted in Chinese and successful candidates would need to receive training in a Chinese law firm for one full year before they would be qualified. Although it would not be an easy route to follow, I have no doubt that there will be some who would decide to do so. A dual qualification would be a great asset in the future, as Hong Kong and Mainland economic activities become increasingly integrated.
Another avenue that has recently become available for foreign and Hong Kong lawyers is that of working for a State-owned enterprise in the Mainland through a national corporate legal consultancy programme. It is intended that these corporate legal consultants working in State-owned enterprises would not only deal with legal matters such as trade disputes and contracts relating to the corporations, but would also take part in major decision-making relating to the operation of the corporations. The first qualification test for lawyers to work for a State-owned enterprise will be held in October this year.
There are therefore several ways in which foreign or Hong Kong lawyers can enter the Mainland legal services market under the current arrangements.
Attracting Mainland-related legal business to Hong Kong
Another way in which the need for Mainland-related legal services can be met is by encouraging foreign investors and businessmen to obtain those services in Hong Kong. Both foreign and Hong Kong lawyers can offer first-class services both at the contract-making stage and in the event that contractual disputes need to be resolved.
The Hong Kong SAR Government is actively promoting the development of Hong Kong as a centre for resolving disputes arising out of international business transactions in the Mainland. As a general rule, the parties to an international contract in the Mainland can agree that Hong Kong law applies to it, or that disputes arising under it are to be resolved in Hong Kong.
According to Article 145 of the General Principles of Civil Law and Article 126 of the Contract Law of China, the parties to foreign-related contracts may choose laws of other countries and regions (including Hong Kong law) as the law applicable to the settlement of contractual disputes, unless otherwise provided by law. The exceptions are contracts to be fulfilled in the territory of the PRC in respect of Chinese-foreign equity or contractual joint ventures, and Chinese-foreign cooperation in exploring and exploiting natural resources.
Under Article 244 of the Civil Procedure Law, parties to a dispute over a contract concluded with a foreign element, or over property rights and interests involving a foreign element may, through written agreement, choose the court of the jurisdiction which has practical connections with the contract to settle their disputes. According to this provision, if any dispute has practical connections with Hong Kong, the parties involved may agree that Hong Kong courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction over the determination of disputes. The place where a contract is signed may be regarded as having a practical connection with the contract and disputes arising under it.
Article 15 of the Law on Chinese-foreign Equity Joint Ventures and Article 26 of the Law on Chinese-foreign Contractual Joint Ventures both deal with disputes arising between the parties to an equity joint venture that have not been settled through consultation. The Articles provide that the parties may agree to settle those disputes through arbitration by an arbitration agency of China or elsewhere. And so even disputes under international joint ventures can be arbitrated in Hong Kong.
The HKSAR Government is therefore encouraging parties to foreign-related contracts or joint ventures to negotiate and execute their contracts in Hong Kong, to choose the law of Hong Kong as the applicable law, and to choose the courts or the arbitral institutions of Hong Kong as the forum for dispute solution.
The advantages to Hong Kong of its being developed as a dispute resolution centre are obvious. But we consider that such a development would be equally advantageous to the Mainland and to foreign businessmen.
Mainland parties can communicate directly with lawyers in Hong Kong. Those lawyers know the Mainland well and have a good understanding of the operation of the Mainland market. Hong Kong's proximity to the Mainland means that Mainland parties do not have to travel far to attend hearings. With their experience and international perspective, Hong Kong lawyers are in a position to provide high quality professional services. They should also be willing to transfer their expertise to their colleagues in the Mainland so as to help develop the legal professions of both places.
Foreign businessmen should find Hong Kong an appealing place for dispute resolution. I highlighted the main reasons for this earlier. I will add two further reasons.
(1) First, Hong Kong arbitral awards are enforceable in the Mainland and in all countries that are members of the New York Convention.
(2) Secondly, steps are being taken to make Hong Kong even more attractive as a litigation centre.
The Civil Justice Review, which is being undertaken by the Chief Justice's Working Party, aims to make litigation in Hong Kong more speedy and cost-effective. Responses to the Working Party's Consultation Paper are now being considered and firm proposals will be made in due course.
The Hong Kong SAR Government is hoping to put in place with the Mainland limited arrangements for the reciprocal enforcement of judgments. At present, Hong Kong judgments are not enforceable in the Mainland. In order to make Hong Kong a more attractive place for international litigants, we have proposed that local judgments at District Court level or higher should be enforceable in the Mainland if the following criteria are satisfied -
(1) the judgment is a money judgment arising from a commercial contract; and
(2) the parties to the contract have expressly provided for the HKSAR courts to have jurisdiction over disputes.
Under the proposal, Mainland judgments given at the Intermediate People's Court level or higher would be enforceable in Hong Kong if similar criteria were satisfied.
We are also actively participating in negotiations at the Hague for a new multilateral treaty relating to jurisdiction over civil and commercial cases, and to mutual enforcement of judgments with other countries. If these negotiations result in a treaty, and it applies to Hong Kong, it would mean that relevant Hong Kong judgments would be enforceable in all other countries that were parties to it. This would certainly add to Hong Kong's status as a dispute resolution centre.
Proposed Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement ("CEPA")
There is one further development relating to the WTO that could considerably assist Hong Kong and the Mainland. That development is the proposed Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (or "CEPA") between Hong Kong and the Mainland. A CEPA is similar in concept to a Free Trade Agreement.
A Free Trade Agreement is an agreement between two or more separate customs territories to reduce or eliminate trade barriers that exist between them, but with each party maintaining its own external trade policy for non-member countries. Free trade areas tend to involve countries within a geographic region. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico is an example.
The WTO agreements recognise that regional arrangements and closer economic integration can benefit the participating countries. They also recognize that, under some circumstances, regional trading arrangements could hurt the trading interests of other countries. Normally, setting up a free trade area would violate the WTO's requirement of equal treatment for all trading partners under the most-favoured-nation principle. However, Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) allows regional trading arrangements to be set up as a special exception, provided certain strict criteria are met. In particular, the arrangements should help trade to flow more freely among the countries in the group, without barriers being raised on trade with the outside world. In other words, regional integration should complement the multilateral trading system and not threaten it.
Article 24 of GATT provides that if a free trade area is created, duties and other trade barriers should be reduced or removed on substantially all sectors of trade in the group. Non-parties to the FTA should not find trade with the group any more restrictive than before the group was set up. Similarly, Article V of GATS provides for economic integration agreements in respect of trade in services.
Provided that these principles are complied with, legal services can, under a CEPA, be liberalised in the Mainland for HKSAR lawyers but not for lawyers of other WTO members.
The Hong Kong SAR Government has begun talks with the Mainland in respect of a proposed CEPA, and it has proposed that legal services be included within it. We have consulted the Law Society and the Bar Association on their "wish list" for the agreement and, in summary, it is as follows -
(1) Hong Kong law firms registered in the Mainland should be allowed to enter into partnerships or associations with Mainland law firms, even though foreign law firms cannot do so;
(2) Hong Kong law firms registered in the Mainland should be allowed to employ Mainland lawyers. Similarly, Mainland law firms should be allowed to employ Hong Kong lawyers; and
(3) HKSAR lawyers should be permitted to seek professional qualifications and to practise Chinese law in the Mainland.
The talks are still at an early stage, and I cannot predict their outcome. However, a Hong Kong-Mainland CEPA offers a WTO-compliant method of providing arrangements for those within "one country" that are in some respects more favourable than arrangements for those outside the country.
Role of the SARG and Department of Justice
That brings me to the last of the topics I propose to raise this morning - namely the role of the Hong Kong SARG and Department of Justice in relation to Mainland-related services.
An inter-departmental research group under the auspices of Financial Secretary has been set up to liaise with relevant Central People's Government authorities on matters related to China's accession to the WTO. The purpose of the group is to conduct in-depth studies in respect of various services sectors, including professional services. It also keeps track of the arrangements for the opening up of the Mainland market, and maintains contact with local business and professional bodies so that they can better understand the opening-up process and more readily assess market trends. This will enable them to capitalize on business opportunities.
So far as legal services are concerned, in January 2000, a special working group was set up by the Department of Justice to study the impact on Hong Kong legal services of China's accession to the WTO. This working group comprises representatives from the Bar Association, the Law Society and the Department of Justice. Regular working group meetings are being held in order to gather views and to explore opportunities arising from the opening up of the legal services market on the Mainland.
The Department of Justice has held several meetings with the Ministry of Justice in Beijing to discuss the situation and to explain Hong Kong lawyers' "wish list" in respect of legal services on the Mainland. These meetings have also helped us to understand the Ministry's attitude towards the provision of legal services in the Mainland by Hong Kong lawyers.
A long-standing policy of the Department of Justice, which is relevant to WTO issues, is that of promoting greater mutual understanding on the part of Hong Kong and Mainland lawyers. This policy is implemented in various ways.
(1) Training scheme for Mainland government lawyers
Since 1999, the Department of Justice has been organizing a Training Scheme in Common Law for Mainland Officials. This scheme aims at promoting greater understanding of our common law system by way of both academic and practical training.
So far 39 Mainland officials from various public organizations, such as the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, have completed the Training Scheme. The fourth batch of 15 Mainland officials, including officials from Shanghai will commence their study under the Training Scheme this September.
(2) Attachments (Shanghai lawyers)
This year, the Shanghai Lawyers Association and the Basic Law Institute jointly launched a training programme in Hong Kong for lawyers from Shanghai. The Department of Justice agreed to provide an attachment programme for these Shanghai lawyers.
So far, arrangements have been made for three of these lawyers to be attached to the Department of Justice for periods ranging from one to two weeks. Arrangements have also been made for the other participants of the training programme to monitor criminal and civil hearings in the courts of Hong Kong.
(3) Exchange visits
Since 1987, the Ministry of Justice of the PRC and the Department of Justice have arranged mutual visits on a regular basis under a "Legal Study Visits" programme. Visits to courts, prosecution authorities, police, judiciary and other related departments of each side are arranged in order to enhance mutual understanding of the two legal systems. So far, 7 visits have been made by Mainland authorities to the HKSAR and 9 visits have been made by the Hong Kong officials to the Mainland.
Apart from the regular study visits, the Department of Justice regularly receives delegations from the Mainland and briefs them on the legal system of the HKSAR.
(4) Training programmes
Since 1996, the Department of Justice and the Fudan University of Shanghai have jointly organised short courses on the law and legal system of the Mainland for Hong Kong Government officers. Up to March 2000, 164 officers of the Department of Justice and 80 officers from other government departments attended the course. The Fudan course was replaced by a similar course on Chinese Law conducted by the Zhongshan University in Guangzhou in 2001. In addition to lectures on different areas of the Mainland legal system, visits to the People's Courts, the People's Procuratorate, prisons and other law related institutions in Guangzhou are arranged.
Officers of the Department of Justice also attend courses in China conducted by Tsinghua University and the National School of Administration. We have also organized short courses on China law for English-speaking counsel at Peking University and so far 31 counsel have attended that course.
(5) Mock trials
Since 1999, the Department of Justice has organised an annual "Symposium on the Litigation Systems of the Mainland and Hong Kong". Hong Kong participants seek to learn more about the Mainland system by attending discussion sessions and visiting the people's courts and procuratorates in the Mainland. In addition, mock trials conducted in Putonghua, but using the rules applicable to Hong Kong courts, are held in different Mainland cities. Members of the Judiciary, the Law Society, the Hong Kong Bar Association, the Legal Aid Department, the Hong Kong Police Force and the ICAC have kindly participated in these mock trials.
So far four symposia have been held in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai. The Department of Justice is planning to hold a similar symposium in Chongqing at the end of this year.
One particularly fruitful contact between the Department of Justice, the Law Society and Bar Association on the one hand, and Mainland officials on the other hand, recently took place in Qingdao. It is hoped that this meeting will promote greater co-operation between the lawyers of the two cities.
It is clear that the initiatives taken by Hong Kong's legal profession and the Department of Justice are beginning to bear fruit. However, more remains to be done. As we continue our work, we will need to adopt new strategies as the need arises. The Department of Justice is particularly interested in hearing new ideas.
As I said at the beginning of my talk, today's seminar provides an excellent opportunity for us all to share our latest thinking on this important topic. I have tried to give an overview of some of the issues that need to be addressed. I look forward to hearing the other speakers today, who are better qualified than I am to discuss the many practical problems that need to be tackled. I also await with interest the views of you - the distinguished members of today's audience. With your active participation, I have no doubt that this will be a fruitful seminar.
End/Saturday, September 7, 2002