Hong Kong lawyers will soon be able to practise in nine mainland cities within the Greater Bay Area after passing a new qualifying examination under a pilot scheme announced by the central government on Thursday. The initiative, which also covers legal professionals in Macau, allows those who pass the test to handle civil and commercial cases in the nine Guangdong cities included in China’s ambitious bay area project, which aims to integrate the region into an economic powerhouse. In a notice to relevant local authorities, the State Council said the move aimed to promote the development of the Greater Bay Area. The pilot scheme will run for three years. Beijing’s man in Hong Kong urges city to capitalise on bay area opportunities The qualifying examination is open to permanent residents of Hong Kong and Macau who, among other requirements, have to uphold the country’s constitution and the Basic Law, have five years’ experience and be able to write in Chinese and have professional proficiency in spoken Mandarin, according to the State Council notice. Successful candidates are also subject to an annual test, and would be under the supervision of local judicial departments. The Hong Kong legal profession has been lobbying mainland authorities for years to facilitate lawyers from the finance hub in gaining mainland legal qualifications through a special examination. There is already a unified national qualification exam that is open to all legal practitioners, local or overseas, that allows those who pass to practise any type of law anywhere on the mainland. Hong Kong lawyers, however, welcomed the announcement of the new pilot scheme on Thursday. Maggie Chan Man-ki, a founding president of the Small and Medium Law Firms Association of Hong Kong, said the move would have several benefits. “From the business point of view, Hong Kong lawyers can enter a much bigger market. From the national point of view, it could promote mutual understanding of mainland and Hong Kong lawyers over the different legal systems of the two places,” she said. “It can also support the demand for multi-jurisdictional legal services In the Greater Bay Area.” Lam floats joint policies with Shenzhen to bolster hi-tech innovation Veteran solicitor Chan Chak-ming said the pilot programme was “wider and more generous” than he expected. Anticipating it would be popular, he said the five-year experience requirement was a low threshold and likely to appeal to younger lawyers. He added welcoming the younger generation of Hongkongers could well be seen as a positive gesture after the city’s anti-government protests last year. “By obtaining additional qualifications Hong Kong lawyers who are trained under common law can now act in a civil law jurisdiction, making us very competitive internationally,” the lawyer added. Nicholas Chan Hiu-fung, a lawyer and local deputy to the National People’s Congress, also welcomed the scheme, but urged the Hong Kong government to offer courses to prepare interested lawyers to sit for the new exam. He also said he was not worried that the move would draw Hong Kong talent away from the city. “We do not necessarily have to stay in the Greater Bay Area to work. We can go across the border to work in the morning and then return to Hong Kong in the afternoon. So, we can do business in both places,” he said. The Greater Bay Area plan, the brainchild of President Xi Jinping, seeks to transform Hong Kong, Macau and the nine Guangdong cities into an integrated finance and technology hub. The nine cities are Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing. Xi has also asked to make it more convenient for Hongkongers to study, work and live on the mainland so that the city can take advantage of national development opportunities.