Hong Kong faces stiff competition from Singapore as top place to solve legal disputes
Hong Kong faces stiff competition from Singapore as the top place to solve legal disputes as judicial independence in Hong Kong is threatened due to the new security law.
- Hong Kong's
Hong Kong faces stiff competition from Singapore as the top place to solve legal disputes as judicial independence in Hong Kong is threatened due to the new security law. Last year, a study by the Queen Mary University of London and law firm White & Case ranked the city-state as the top place to solve legal disputes, reported Nikkei Asia.
The Hong Kong Judiciary told Nikkei Asia that its commitment to upholding the rule of law and judicial independence is guaranteed under the Basic Law and "is wholly unaffected" by the enactment of the national security law, "occasional attacks on judges regarding judicial decisions related to controversial cases, and the departure of individual non-permanent judges from other common law jurisdictions." Meanwhile, Hong Kong has embarked on a marketing campaign to preserve the city's status as a hub for international dispute resolution -- citing the rule of law as a key selling point. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's outgoing chief executive, recently told a legal forum that the rule of law makes the city a "preferred choice for multinational corporations when it comes to legal and dispute resolution services."
Lawyers note more frequent discussions with clients over which of the two cities to use as a jurisdiction for deals and contracts. "It's dawning on people in the last few years that Hong Kong has become a very litigant, unfriendly jurisdiction," said Kevin Yam, a retired Hong Kong lawyer now living in Australia. "It's not just to do with the court," he added, saying that it is difficult to find senior counsel with the requisite Chinese- and English-language skills for hearings.
Some experts see the push to promote Hong Kong's rule of law to businesses, while restricting rights in civil and political areas, as an attempt to build a "dual state." Alvin Cheung, a legal scholar, described one state in which the bureaucracy and judiciary abide by rules that could benefit investors, and an arbitrary "prerogative state" under the national security apparatus and the mainland Chinese system. He stressed that businesses cannot count on being exempt from the prerogative state.
"There's no end of things that can be brought under the rubric of national security ... particularly under the Hong Kong legislation and under what we know of the mainland conception of national security," he said. The mainland's umbrella of "national security" is wide, covering everything from subversion and terrorism to "economic security, cultural security, societal security, science and technology security, cybersecurity, environmental security, resource security, nuclear security and the security of overseas interests," a report by the U.S. think tank CSIS noted.
The director of the National Security Office in Hong Kong, Zheng Yanxiong, last June said judiciary decisions should reflect China's interests. "[Hong Kong's] independent judiciary's power is authorized by the National People's Congress. It must highly manifest the national will and national interest, or else it will lose the legal premise of the authorization," he told a pro-Beijing magazine. Alvin Cheung, the scholar, argued that "certainly if your line of work involves dealing with [state-owned enterprises], you should not be in Hong Kong."
"I would suggest that the presumption should be in favour of Singapore, unless you have really, really compelling reasons to be in Hong Kong in particular. And in that case, you should perform risk management accordingly. Which is to say, any risk assessments conducted prior to 2020 are absolutely irrelevant," Cheung said, echoing what many other lawyers told Nikkei Asia. American lawyer Samuel Bickett, who was convicted of assaulting a plainclothes police officer in Hong Kong and jailed for four and a half months, said there is mounting pressure on judges who have "ruled against Beijing's interest" and argued there will be no distinction between criminal and corporate cases.
"For that to be any different for a commercial case is just wishful thinking," said Bickett, who was forced to leave. "There's no possible logical reason why it would be." The US last year issued an advisory stressing the "business and rule of law risks that were formerly limited to mainland China are now increasingly a concern in Hong Kong." As for the guarantees in the joint declaration with the UK, China has signalled that it considers the agreement void, and there is no clause for recourse or mediation if the deal is violated. (ANI)
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)