We aim to make HK a global arbitration hub, says Yuen
Turning Hong Kong into an international arbitration center for the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative would be a major focus of the new Hong Kong government in trying to consolidate the city’s role as a regional hub for legal services and dispute resolution services, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said on Sunday.
He said the Hong Kong SAR has begun taking multipronged procedures to achieve the goal, including enhancing the city’s current arbitration legal framework, as well as intensifying cooperation between Hong Kong and mainland cities on arbitration services.
Yuen made the remarks during a panel discussion at a law conference in Shenzhen to commemorate the 20th anniversary of China’s resumption of exercising sovereignty over Hong Kong.
Explaining the reasons for developing Hong Kong into a global arbitration center, he said trade disputes arising from the B&R are inevitable and this would often involve more than two coun- tries and regions.
International arbitration serves as an effective approach to solving such problems as it could have all countries and regions involved in one court at one time.
Besides, legal services would have a great impact on boosting a city’s economic development and competiveness, Yuen said, adding that having an edge in legal services would “profoundly” enhance Hong Kong’s international influence and allow the city to have a greater say in the international business arena.
Yuen added that Hong Kong already enjoys advantages as a world arbitration center. In addition to its geographic position, the city’s advantages lie in implementing a common law system, similar to that applied in regions and countries involved in the B&R project. Therefore, there’s a favorable legal basis for Hong Kong to build trust with them, he said.
In 2015, Hong Kong was ranked as the most preferred arbitral institution outside of Europe and the third-best arbitral institution worldwide by the sixth International Arbitration Survey released by the Queen Mary University of London.
As to how Hong Kong can achieve the goal, Yuen said the city has reviewed and updated the relevant arbitration infrastructure.
Arbitration in Hong Kong is governed by the Arbitration Ordinance which has been effective since June 2011. According to Yuen, the Hong Kong government has made several updates to the ordinance to keep up with international developments, including a clarification last December that disputes concerning intellectual property could be solved through arbitration.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong is also working on intensifying cooperation with mainland cities, including encouraging law firms jointly operated by Hong Kong and mainland companies, in a bid to achieve mutual understanding on law and regulations on both sides.
According to Yuen, there are now 10 mainland-Hong Kong jointly-run law firms based in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Zhuhai.
Fred Kan Ka-chong, chairman of the Belt and Road Committee of the Law Society of Hong Kong — a professional association for solicitors in Hong Kong — said the law society is paying close attention to the B&R, and has been trying to cultivate talents to meet the need for legal services brought by the initiative.
According to Kan, the legal body is preparing a course for Hong Kong lawyers to learn more about cross-boundary trade.
Hong Kong’s ranking as an arbitration center worldwide, accodring to the sixth International Arbitration Survey