Mock case exposes legal trials and tribulations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 November, 2007, 12:00am

Some of Hong Kong's leading lawyers swapped notes with mainland judges, legal academics and students yesterday at a mock trial to give legal practitioners from both sides of the border an insight into each other's world.

Seated yesterday in a packed public gallery in the court at Chinese University were Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing, Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Roderick Woo Bun, veteran lawyers and representatives of business groups from Hong Kong.

Arguing over the case of an alleged breach of commercial agreement was Bar Association chairman Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung SC and the association's vice-chairman, Paul Shieh Wing-tai SC.

The claimant, a Malaysian tycoon, his three wives and a court clerk were played by barristers.

In the afternoon, the same case was tried again, but with players from the mainland speaking Putonghua instead of English and using the civil law instead of the common law system.

The mock trials were the first of their kind held in Hong Kong.

Mr Yuen said: 'It is a very concrete way of comparing the pros and cons of two jurisdictions. In Hong Kong, we focus on how to find out what exactly was said and done by the key witnesses, whereas in the mainland, they are more focused on documents.

'If a thing was not mentioned in the document, it would be difficult to persuade the court that that thing had happened.'

The mock trials were followed by a discussion session, where it emerged that such a civil case in a mainland court could be finished within an hour, while in Hong Kong it could go on for more than a day.

Judge Susan Kwan Shuk-hing, who presided over the morning mock trial, pointed to the heavy workload for judges. 'Being a judge in Hong Kong is hard,' she said.

Bar Council member Andrew Mak, who arranged the trials, said the legal teams had three rehearsals to make sure the key elements of the case and Hong Kong practice were presented. Mock trials on a murder and arson case will be staged today.

DVDs of the mock trials will serve as teaching materials for Hong Kong and mainland law students.

Cecilia Chen Sheau-ling, chairwoman and co-founder of the Legal Education Trust Fund, said her organisation - the survival of which depends mostly on individual sponsors, including its honorary patron Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang - would need much more support from the government and other sectors to continue its work.

'The trust fund has become a bridge between Hong Kong and mainland legal practitioners since it was set up 20 years ago,' she said. 'But there are only two full-time staff. We are a charity organisation but are not eligible for funding from the Jockey Club or Community Chest.'

Ms Chen said she would like to organise more mock trials if she had the resources.