Belt and Road conference success for HK’s law society

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The Law Society of Hong Kong’s recent conference on the Belt and Road initiative combined the with society’s 110th anniversary with great success, society leaders said.

The conference pooled expert insights into issues related to the strategy and connected legal communities from all along the planned trade routes to lay a solid legal foundation for the project.

The conference, entitled “The Belt and Road: A Catalyst for Connectivity, Convergence and Collaboration”, was held on 12 May at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), and run in conjunction with the 110th anniversary of the society’s founding at a dinner the following evening, which attracted the elite of Hong Kong’s legal community, along with members of law societies from 23 jurisdictions along the Belt and Road, (including Hong Kong).

Thomas SoPresidentThe Law Society of Hong Kong
Thomas So
President
The Law Society of Hong Kong

“Hong Kong lawyers have in this conference shown China and the world that Hong Kong’s robust legal system under One Country, Two Systems is well respected, and members of the Hong Kong legal community are well placed to contribute to and gain with the success of the Belt and Road initiative,” Thomas So, the president of The Law Society of Hong Kong, told Asia Business Law Journal.

A highlight of the conference was the signing of Hong Kong Manifesto by 38 law associations, which is aimed to promote legal co-operation between lawyers from the Belt and Road regions. Under the manifesto, The Law Society of Hong Kong will work with other law associations to promote interaction between their respective members, establish a business networking community, and pay particular attention to laws touching on matters related to the Belt and Road initiative.

The signing of Hong Kong Manifesto “bespoke the ability of Hong Kong’s legal profession as a ‘super connector’, taking the lead to push the uniformity of law under the Belt and Road initiative”, said So, adding that his society would also promote more exchanges with lawyers from other jurisdictions per the guiding principles of the manifesto.

After the plenary session, the conference included three parallel breakout sessions. The first addressed opportunities and challenges for bilateral and multilateral trade. The second looked at how the power of e-tools can be harnessed for international trade, and the final session investigated the issue of resolving disputes in cross-border trade between the diversified jurisdictions.

According to So, participants and speakers said that by preparing for and attending the conference, they had learnt more and started to truly appreciate that the Belt and Road initiative was a multi-party, win-win opportunity.

“When you commit to invest time to learn new things, more information, build contacts and explore respective uniqueness, resources, strength and weakness, opportunities will come to you, be it in harnessing and unleashing the power of facilitating international trade through e-commerce, or taking advantage of tax treaties and agreements, reduction of trade barriers and standardization of standards to facilitate scalability of project deployments; [or] on pre-empting and resolving inevitable problems that will arise in many cross-country and cross-cultural contracts and projects that will result from the Belt & Road initiative,” said So.

The conference was attended by more than 650 participants from 23 jurisdictions and 44 law associations along the Belt and Road route, including Australia, Armenia, Brunei Darussalam, mainland China, France, Georgia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, UK and other countries.

All the delegates to the Belt and Road conference also attended The Law Society of Hong Kong’s jubilee celebration dinner to mark the society’s 110th anniversary, held in the Grand Hall at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on 13 May. The dinner was also attended by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung.

Hong Kong’s legal profession comprises solicitors and barristers. The Law Society of Hong Kong is the professional association for solicitors in Hong Kong and was established in 1907. As of the end of March 2017, the law society had 10,443 members, 9,076 of whom have a current certificate to practise as a Hong Kong solicitor. There are also 1,371 foreign lawyers qualified primarily from 32 jurisdictions.