Qianhai court in Shenzhen to allow Hong Kong jurors to deal with Hong Kong-related cases

HK lawyer expresses doubts about scheme since contracts often based on mainland law

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 4:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 4:03am

A Shenzhen court is to adopt a new jury system that will allow Hong Kong residents to join its legal panel, mainland media reported.

The Qianhai District Court will invite Hongkongers to take part in its three-member judging panel specifically to deal with Hong Kong-related cases. The court in the special economic zone touted as a "mini Hong Kong" would also explore laws used in the city, the Xinhua report said.

The news came after the Shenzhen Municipal Intermediate People's Court, under which the Qianhai court falls, revealed on Tuesday that its six courts had been dealing with a large number of cases involving Hong Kong litigants.

Form 2008 to 2013, the courts have dealt with more than "7,500 Hong Kong cases", making up 79 per cent of the 9,505 foreign cases heard in the past five years.

The head of the city's commercial court, Ye Qing, told a mainland newspaper that by exploring cooperation between Hong Kong and mainland courts, the Qianhai District Court aimed to "maximise benefits for litigants".

But the change - which Ye stressed was designed to incorporate more Hong Kong elements into the commercial part of the mainland legal system - drew reservations from Hong Kong lawyers.

Hong Kong Law Society vice-president Thomas So Shiu-tsung questioned its feasibility, as mainland courts faced structural limitations.

"Many commercial court cases are based on contracts served," he said, adding that if these contracts cited the applicability of mainland laws - which happened in most cases - there would be no place for Hong Kong elements and jurors from the city.

The mainland press reports did not say whether the scheme would operate with volunteers or how the Hong Kong jurors would be selected.

Senior counsel Alan Leong Kah-kit said the change encouraged the inclusion of Hong Kong jurors but the nature of the mainland jury system remained the same.

He said the role of mainland jurors was to act as experts and assistants to the judge, unlike Hong Kong, where juries were made up of by laymen.

He also pointed out that civil cases in Hong Kong did not usually involve jurors, unless they were related to slander and libel.