A LEGAL expert from the mainland yesterday predicted that the common law system would fade from Hong Kong after the 1997 changeover. Duanmu Zheng, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court of China, said the existing system would gradually be absorbed by the mainland continental system following the return of the territory to Chinese rule. He said: ''There are no unbridgeable gaps between the two systems, and there is a need for Hong Kong to get rid of the shadows of colonial rule in its legal system.'' The common law system, which allows the passing of verdicts based on previous court decisions, relied too much on the British legal system, he said. Mr Duanmu, who is also a member of the international Permanent Court of Arbitration, described the continental system as a simpler approach. He said the system allowed courts to pass verdicts based on the available evidence, taking into account the legal provisions without relying on precedents.