Kung Hei Fat Choy and Happy Year of the Rat!
The beginning of a new year is not only a hopeful time for celebration that brighter days are ahead of us, it is also a reflective time on what we can learn and improve from the past year.
Since the latter half of 2019, Hong Kong has experienced tensions over political controversies and witnessed scenes of violent confrontations. Conflicts have spread from the political circle to co-workers, friends, families and strangers in the streets.
Relationships are increasingly allowed to be defined by non-compromising differences. This has sadly empowered those who promote conflict rather than cooperation and sow hatred rather than empathy. A constant reminder of common grounds and principles is helpful in alleviating the growing intensity of such a phenomenon.
Respect for the co-existence of two legal systems
“One Country, Two Systems” is a unique concept that allows two different legal systems to co-exist within one country. While Hong Kong continues to maintain its own independent and highly respected legal system, which is firmly embedded in the common law tradition in accordance with the Basic Law, it is important to be aware of, to understand and respect the differences between the two separate legal systems in Hong Kong and the Mainland. In this regard, the Law Society has been making tireless efforts to explain and promote “One Country, Two Systems” to local and international communities at every available opportunity including regular talks to schools and local communities, seminars at international events and exchanges with our overseas counterparts.
Respect for the rule of law
One of the most important roles of the Law Society of Hong Kong is to safeguard the rule of law and to uphold the principles on which this core value is founded.
Firmly enshrined in Article 27 of the Basic Law are the rights to freedom of speech, assembly, procession and demonstration. However, it is important to bear in mind that in exercising these rights, respect for the rule of law, the rights of others, the normal functioning of services and businesses, and the law and order of society as a whole should not be compromised. Any open defiance of the law damaging properties, injuring people and engaging in acts of violence in any form is to be deplored as an affront to the rule of law. Criminal acts must be brought to justice in accordance with the law.
Respect for judicial independence
Article 85 of the Basic Law provides that the Hong Kong courts shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference. The detailed analysis based on which a court’s decision is made is set out in the court's reasoned judgment, which is publicly accessible.
It is regrettable that under politically charged circumstances, impulsive comments alleging that some judicial decisions had been influenced by political considerations have been published. These comments, though unfounded, may undermine the integrity and independence of the Judiciary.
The Law Society leads in this regard and over the past year; we have issued a number of public statements reiterating our commitment to defend the rule of law and judicial independence.
Rather than focusing on what differences that push people apart, let us commit ourselves to a sustained effort to remind each other of the common values and principles that we share, that have guided us through testing times before and that should be looked up as a uniting force in the current challenge.
While the Year of the Pig has been a challenging year, the extraordinary experience may help enrich knowledge, strengthen character and heighten consciousness, making one wiser and stronger than before.