Last month, Hong Kong played host to the Commonwealth Law Conference. It last hosted such a conference in 1983. In the intervening years, Hong Kong had undergone a huge transformation, from a British colony to a special administrative region of China. It is unusual, and very encouraging, to see that Hong Kong continues to be linked in some way to the Commonwealth - and to the common-law world. In recent weeks, there has been much apprehension voiced about Shanghai supplanting Hong Kong as an international financial centre. There has also been concern about Beijing interfering in Hong Kong's autonomy. However, although Hong Kong certainly faces challenges, it is important to remember that we have certain strengths, and that these remain, a dozen years after reversion to Chinese sovereignty. And these are strengths that Shanghai, no matter what it does, is unlikely to acquire. Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, in addressing the opening ceremony of the 16th Commonwealth Law Conference on April 6, pointed out that it was the first time the conference was being held in a non-Commonwealth jurisdiction. The convening of the conference in Hong Kong, he said, 'represents a recognition of the successful implementation of the principle of 'one country, two systems'.' 'The common-law system,' Chief Justice Li said, 'has continued to be maintained and indeed has continued to thrive in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law.' Moreover, he pointed out, the Basic Law specifically provides in Article 84 that Hong Kong courts 'may refer to precedents of other common-law jurisdictions'. The Basic Law also allows foreign judges to sit on the Court of Final Appeal. According to a recent study by a University of Hong Kong legal academic, Simon Young, their presence, combined with that of foreign lawyers, has exerted a significant international influence in human rights cases heard by our highest court. The last time the conference was held here was at a time when the Sino-British negotiations were encountering great difficulties and Hong Kong's future was uncertain. The conference dates, September 18-23, 1983, overlapped with the fourth round of Sino-British negotiations, which marked the low point of the talks since the first round was held that July. News of the stalemate caused the Hang Seng Index to plunge to 785.45 and the Hong Kong dollar was in freefall. Today, the political uncertainties surrounding Hong Kong's future have dissipated. But economic challenges remain. Yet, we are well positioned to face those challenges, given that Hong Kong continues to share the same fundamental values that underlie all common-law systems, which are based on the rule of law, an independent judiciary and an independent legal profession - as well as respect for human rights and the dignity of the individual. While it is necessary to continue to be vigilant about protecting our rights and freedoms, Hong Kong people need to count their blessings too. And one of the best things that we have is the independent judiciary and the thriving legal system. Sometimes, utterances of Chinese leaders may seem to indicate a lack of understanding of the way things are done in Hong Kong, such as the separation between the executive and the judiciary. Indeed, Chinese officials may actually interfere in Hong Kong domestic affairs from time to time. But one must remember that they, or at least their predecessors, had the wisdom to provide for Hong Kong to continue with its original economic, social and legal systems, provisions that are incorporated in Hong Kong's Basic Law. Hong Kong may not yet have a fully democratic political system, but our legal system and the rule of law remain strong and should be cherished. Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator.