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HK shines when it comes to rule of law

By Luis Liu in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-01 07:18

HK shines when it comes to rule of law

Judges and lawyers attend the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year 2017 at the Court of Final Appeal in January. Roy Liu / China Daily

Global benchmarks put city near the top of jurisdictions worldwide

When China and the United Kingdom began negotiating Hong Kong's future in the 1980s, there was skepticism about what would happen to the city's world-renowned rule of law. Mistrust by the international community endured after the Chinese government proposed the unprecedented "one country, two systems" principle.

The past 20 years have continued to see criticism of Hong Kong's "failure" to maintain rule of law and judicial independence, but statistics tell a different story.

The World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators project put Hong Kong at a percentile of 94.7 for rule of law in 2015, which means it outranked 94.7 percent of the 113 countries and regions assessed.

In the same year, the United Kingdom was at 93.8 and the United States at 90.4, while Singapore came in at 96.6.

In 1996, a year before Hong Kong's return to China after 150 years of British rule, the city only scored 68.4.

At a symposium in Beijing commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Basic Law, national legislator Zhang Dejiang said the world-renowned index showed the rule of law in Hong Kong is a proven success.

Other indicators show similar results. In the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, one of the world's leading sources of original, independent data, Hong Kong scored 0.77 out of one last year - 16th in the global rankings and third in Asia, behind only Singapore and Japan.

In the Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, Hong Kong was the only Asian economy among 138 jurisdictions to be ranked in the top 10 on judicial independence. It was also third among common law jurisdictions.

David Neuberger, president of the UK's Supreme Court and a nonpermanent judge at Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal, said concerns are exaggerated.

There was concern in some quarters about the possible undermining of judicial independence after the central government commented that judges are among the city's "administrators", he said.

"The concerns remind me of the worries some UK judges have about the fact that their email address ends with '' - 'We are not part of the government; we are independent', they cry."

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