Law's longer reach
With more and more foreign investors making a beeline for China, lawsuits involving non-mainland firms have also been rising, with 60 per cent of 2011 cases involving companies from Hong Kong and Macau, according to official figures.
To continue improving China's investment environment, authorities have prioritised the need to upgrade the nation's legal system through the provision of qualified legal services and to safeguard the rights of the investors.
As a key flank to these efforts, the Advanced Programme for Chinese Senior Judges is the first and only legal education programme for mainland senior judges in Hong Kong. It is jointly provided by the School of Law at City University (CityU) of Hong Kong and the National Judges College of the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China.
Now on its fifth year, the two-week programme will see 31 senior judges from 28 mainland provinces learn about common and international law.
'The programme allows Chinese senior judges to comprehend the essence of the common law system, broaden their views and enhance their competency in adjudication,' Professor Chen Haiguang, vice-president of China's National Judges College, said at the programme's May 4 grand opening ceremony to welcome judges from the mainland.
Chen noted that more than 120 senior judges from the mainland had completed the programme.
Professor Way Kuo, the CityU president, said that the programme exemplified the idea of professional education and fostered cross-border knowledge exchanges among professionals, students and teachers.
Also at the opening ceremony, Professor Wang Guiguo, dean and chair professor of Chinese and Comparative Law at CityU's School of Law, acknowledged the support from the legal profession in China and in Hong Kong that has allowed mainland judges to have the privilege of exchanging ideas with their counterparts from other jurisdictions.
According to Professor Gu Minkang, associate dean at CityU's School of Law, the main aim of the programme was to provide a platform to facilitate Chinese judges' understanding of common law system and the core philosophy of international law. The scheme also enables mainland and local judges, as well as legal professionals, to exchange insights.
'CityU hopes to utilise its specialities to assist judicial reforms on the mainland,' Gu added.
He said the programme was open to all senior judges, usually vice-presidents or division heads of the Higher People's Courts, or presidents or vice-presidents of the Intermediate People's Courts. What's more, most of them handle cases involving disputes with foreign entities, as well as Hong Kong and Macau issues. The attendees from the mainland are selected by the Supreme People's Court.
As part of the programme, mainland judges receive extensive courses covering the Basic Law of Hong Kong, law drafting, the city's judicial system as well as its mediation procedures. The senior mainland judges are also offered opportunities to visit various law-related institutions, such as the different levels of Hong Kong courts, the Department of Justice, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Law Society of Hong Kong, the Bar Association, and the Legal Aid Department.
'The visits will help the judges learn the roles, functions and operations of the institutions,' Gu said, adding that they will also meet and exchange ideas with prominent legal professionals in Hong Kong.
The course requires the senior mainland judges to attend lectures, audit court trials, discuss issues with legal professionals, and exchange views among themselves and with other judges. Upon completion of the course, mainland judges would have better understanding of Hong Kong's judiciary and international law, Gu added.