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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

Perception vs. reality

During a visit to the UK to promote Hong Kong's legal system, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, secretary for justice, said the international community should look at the figures, instead of listening to the opinions of some media outlets.

Admittedly, the rule of law has become a very popular topic in Hong Kong, and it often attracts media attention, including overseas," Yuen said.

"The views expressed through these channels are admittedly very divergent. However, I would invite you to make a distinction between mere assertions on subjective perception on the one hand and objective facts on the other."

Song Sio-chong, a veteran political analyst and Basic Law expert, said: "It's not hard to see the strength of Hong Kong's legal system under the 'one country, two systems' principle, especially compared with other developed countries and regions."

The Basic Law provides a guarantee of judicial independence and rule of law, and the city's high global ranking can be attributed to a society with world-class order and security and with little tolerance for corruption. The civilized law-enforcement authorities, civil justice, effective access for civilians to legal services and freedom of expression added to the high scores, he added.

The judiciary gained greater independence after 1997 when the Final Appellate Court was moved inside the city boundary, symbolizing the return of judicial power to Hong Kong, he added.

Before and after the Basic Law was promulgated in 1990, the final avenue of appeal for cases heard in Hong Kong was the Judicial Committee of the UK's Privy Council. To address this anomaly, the Basic Law provided for the establishment of a Court of Final Appeal.

The move, which handed the power of final adjudication to Hong Kong, also raised the level of recognition of Hong Kong's legal system around the globe, Yuen said.

"During the colonial days, putting aside Privy Council decisions on appeals from Hong Kong, decisions made by the Hong Kong courts were hardly cited by the final appellate courts in other common law jurisdictions," he said.

"Since the CFA was established, we have seen a significant change in the scenario."

Moreover, the Basic Law allows judges from other common law jurisdictions to sit on the CFA, allowing the court to draw on their experience and maintain links with other common law jurisdictions, Yuen said.

In terms of transparency, Hong Kong consistently remains in the top 20 economies with low levels of corruption, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index. The city was ranked the 15th least-corrupt place among 176 countries and regions last year, scoring 77 - 13 points behind world leader Denmark.

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