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Speech by Acting CS at 20th Biennial LAWASIA Conference Opening Ceremony (English only) (with photo and video)

    Following is the speech by the Acting Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Michael Suen, at the opening ceremony of the 20th Biennial LAWASIA Conference at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this morning (June 6):

Chief Justices, Mr Mah, Mr Huang, Consuls-General, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Thank you for the opportunity to speak at the opening of this prestigious conference. We have, under one roof, many of the most influential legal minds from across the Asia Pacific region. A very warm welcome to you all.

     I will be brief, as I know you have much ground to cover over the next three days.

     There are a couple of topics I would like to touch on. The timing and location for your 20th biennial conference could not be better. This year, your host, the Law Society of Hong Kong is celebrating its centenary. Yes, it was founded way back in 1907. How things have changed since then.

     One hundred years ago, Sir Frederick Lugard was beginning his governorship of Hong Kong. The manufacturing industry was just taking off and Hong Kong's population numbered about 325,000.

     Today we have a Hong Kong-born chief executive running the city. We are a leading international financial centre, and almost seven million people call Hong Kong their home.

     The Law Society has seen it all. Its centenary is especially impressive when you consider that the Hong Kong SAR is just about to turn 10 years old. In a little over three weeks from now, Hong Kong will be marking the 10th Anniversary of Reunification with the Motherland.

     It was on July 1, 1997, that the Basic Law came into effect. I am pleased to tell you that the rule of law remains the bedrock of our society today, just as it has been throughout the city's modern history.

     Under the 'One Country, Two Systems' concept, our independent judiciary upholds our common law without fear or favour. Everyone has access to the legal system.

     The Basic Law is a unique document. It operates on different levels, domestic, national and international. Domestically it provides us with our mini constitution. Nationally it enforces the concept of 'One Country, Two Systems' which ensures that our way of life will remain unchanged until at least 2047. The international dimension gives effect to the Sino-British Joint Declaration. I am happy to report that the Basic Law is serving our city well.

     With 100 years of experience under its belt, the Law Society, plays a leading role in ensuring the stability and progress of our city. It has made an invaluable contribution to promoting the highest professional and ethical standards during times of change.

     Although our capitalist system, as guaranteed by the Basic Law, has not, and will not change, Hong Kong is a city that rarely stands still for long. For one thing, we enjoy a closer and more mutually rewarding relationship with the Mainland.

     The smooth Reunification is testament to the value we place on upholding the rule of law. It is also the result of a mutual cross-boundary respect between two different jurisdictions. While there is a civil law system in the Mainland, Hong Kong remains a common law jurisdiction.

     'One Country, Two Systems', or 'one country, two legal systems' as some have referred to it, has provided both an opportunity and a need for better understanding of each other's legal framework. Our experience reflects LawAsia's objective of sharing knowledge of the differing laws and legal systems among the 23 member jurisdictions.

     The world today is a much smaller place, in terms of doing business, than it was when LawAsia was established in 1966. Increasing cross-border wheeling and dealing brings us all closer together.

     As we continually enter uncharted waters, economically, politically and socially, the rule of law is our security blanket. It must be promoted, practiced and nurtured. We share with LawAsia the objective of promoting the rule of law.

     Hong Kong has long been a blend of Oriental and Western cultures. Today, it is an international city, and an Asian city. It is an international business centre and a gateway to China. This conference brings together speakers from all across the Asia-Pacific region. We have a common goal of creating understanding and goodwill across cultures.

     Finally, I would like to congratulate Lester Huang on his recent election as President of the Law Society of Hong Kong. And I wish the Law Society continued success in the next 100 years.

     To all the LawAsia delegates, I realise you will be meeting more regularly, every year instead of once every two years, in future and I am sure this conference will set the pace for things to come.

     You have a rich programme ahead of you over the next few days, covering a vast range of legal topics. As I have mentioned, your host, the Law Society of Hong Kong is celebrating its centenary. And tonight at the Happy Valley races, the Law Society Centenary Cup is on the cards. And I wouldn't mind betting that some of you may already be looking forward to that now. That celebration apart, I hope that you will also find time to enjoy the diversity and the uniqueness of our city. I wish the conference every success.

     Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Issued at HKT 10:15


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