Letting legal knowledge cross borders

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2011, 12:00am


The one country, two systems policy preserved the judicial system of Hong Kong as it was under colonial rule. As bonds between Hong Kong and the mainland have become tighter, integration and interaction between law professionals from the two jurisdictions have proven to be both fruitful and necessary.

The arrival of mainland judges to study law in Hong Kong might sound strange to some, largely because it could never have happened in the past. Yet, it is no longer a 'new' thing, thanks to programmes offered at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU).

On October 14, a grand opening ceremony was held at the university to welcome mainland judges who had signed up for the Doctor of Juridical Science (Chinese Judges) programme (JSD) and the fourth batch of judges in the Advanced Programme for Chinese Senior Judges.

Among the officiating guests at the ceremony were: Justice Wan Exiang, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China; Professor Wang Guiguo, dean and chair professor of Chinese and Comparative Law, School of Law, CityU; and Professor Way Kuo, president and university distinguished professor of CityU.

The programme, a first of its kind, is a collaboration between CityU School of Law, the National Judges College, and the Supreme People's Court of China.

'It marks a milestone in Hong Kong's legal education,' Wang said at the ceremony. 'The JSD programme is a timely response to globalisation taking place in the legal profession. The aim is to equip judicial authorities from the mainland with cutting-edge knowledge, sophisticated problem-solving skills and diverse perspectives; and further, to increase mutual understanding between judicial authorities and different legal systems.'

Wang added that as an innovative trial, the JSD programme is becoming more influential on the mainland and Hong Kong, which brings expectations along with challenges. 'I hope the Chinese senior judges will keep their feet on the ground and build a solid foundation of legal knowledge to meet the high academic standards of the programme,' he said.

'CityU always emphasises professional education. The university is known for its law and business faculties. The Chinese judges' programmes are important because they bridge different legal systems and bring together scholars and experts from different jurisdictions to explore law theory and education,' Kuo said.

The three year JSD (Chinese Judges) programme is designed for senior judges from the mainland with aims to further deepen their understanding of overseas legal systems. It adopts a comparative approach that aims to equip judges with solid knowledge in common and international law and enhance their ability to analyse problems.

It consists of two components - coursework and thesis. For the coursework aspect, students are required to complete 32 credit units of both core and elective courses. These will focus on advanced legal theory, the Basic Law of Hong Kong, comparative competition law, international trade and investment law and research methodology. Upon completion, students are equipped with the appropriate knowledge to work on their theses.

The doctoral thesis offers students a challenging yet enriching opportunity for innovative thinking in tackling legal issues - meeting the needs of local as well as international communities.

Wan thinks the programme is a timely response to the demand for high-quality judges in Chinese society. 'Statistics have shown that the number of foreign-related cases is increasing by 15 to 20 per cent every year. The programmes provide a platform for the two judicial systems to exchange and learn from each other. As we all know, CityU is a first-class university in Asia, and the world, and I am sure that the university will become the best brand for the education of Chinese judges,' he said.

This year, 20 Chinese senior judges have been admitted to the JSD programme, most of them concurrently serving as president and vice-president in the courts.

'Throughout the years, there have been many conferences and interactions between legal professionals from Hong Kong and the mainland. The JSD programme takes this interaction to another level, offering in-depth and systematic training for judges from the mainland to learn about the legal system of Hong Kong,' says Judge Wu Zaicun, vice-president of the No. 1 Intermediate People's Court of Beijing, and a student on the 4th Advanced Programme for Chinese Senior Judges.

Wu described academic life in Hong Kong as a unique and exclusive experience. He said that the mainland judges would cherish the opportunity to deepen exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong.

Judges will need to take substantial time off from work to be resident in Hong Kong, where lessons are held. Wu thinks this time and effort are well spent as the training will be highly relevant to their work. 'During the course, the judges will attend conferences and write papers, all of which are related to the work that they have been doing,' he said.

Currently, CityU's School of Law runs three Chinese judges programmes - the JSD (Chinese Judges), the Master of Laws (LLM) for Chinese Judges, and the Advanced Programme for Chinese Senior Judges.