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Vaccine priority groups expanded

The Government today expanded the scope of priority groups to cover seven categories of people who have greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 and risk of infection.   Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip told reporters the move was made given the fact that the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme has been running smoothly since its launch on February 26 and taking into account the supply of vaccines and the programme’s progress.   The seven categories of people include staff of premises that serve food and beverages, markets, supermarkets, convenience stores, couriers and takeaway delivery including food delivery.   It also comprise staff of local public transport service operators, registered construction workers and property management such as security guards and cleaning and security personnel.   The remaining categories include teachers and school staff, employees in the tourism industry and staff of scheduled premises under the Prevention & Control of Disease (Requirem

HK's legal hub status secure

After the turmoil in 2019, the National Security Law has restored order and stability in the community. Hong Kong is now ready to capitalise on its unique position under the “one country, two systems”, and the strength in legal and dispute resolution services as well as to make the best use of the opportunity brought forth by the 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic & Social Development. We will continue to serve as an international legal hub for dealmaking and dispute resolution services.   The Greater Bay Area (GBA) has the unique strength of “one country, two systems and three jurisdictions” and the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao GBA recognises the distinctive advantage of Hong Kong’s legal system under “one country, two systems” and our ability to assume a vital role in the development of the GBA. We have already succeeded in securing the Guangdong Province as the first to implement further liberalisation measures for partnership associations for law firms in August 2019. Since June 2020, such measures have been extended to the whole of the Mainland. Enterprises and investors are now able to appoint law firms and legal practitioners who are practising in the Mainland and also familiar with common law. The Regulations of the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Co-operation Zone of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone were amended and approved in August 2020. It allows Hong Kong enterprises registered in Qianhai to choose Hong Kong law as the applicable law in their civil and commercial contracts. This early and pilot implementation measure is a major breakthrough and benefits over 11,000 wholly-owned Hong Kong enterprises registered in Qianhai. We are now actively seeking the support of the central government in extending the measure to the entire GBA.   Hong Kong has been a prime venue for international legal and dispute resolution services. The fundamentals that make Hong Kong excel as a leading arbitration centre can be attributed to our solid foundation with a modern and user-friendly arbitration law. The Arbitration Ordinance, which came into effect in June 2011, is based on the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law to unify the dual regimes for domestic and international arbitrations. Amendments to the ordinance have been made over the years in order to keep abreast of the latest developments in international arbitration. Our arbitral service is well known for its flexibility, and the enforceability of awards in over 160 jurisdictions. It is noteworthy that nearly all the awards have been successfully enforced in the Mainland. Also, a number of well-respected international institutions have chosen Hong Kong as their first global location outside their home jurisdictions. As a result of the unique position of Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems”, we are able to secure groundbreaking and game-changing arrangements with the Mainland such as the Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance in Court-ordered Interim Measures in Aid of Arbitral Proceedings by the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 2019.   Our strong judicial and legal systems have enhanced Hong Kong’s strength as an international legal hub. Judicial independence is premised on the solid infrastructure that has been laid down primarily in the Basic Law - the security of tenure, the immunity of judges, the non-revolving door, and importantly the expressed provision in Article 85 of the Basic Law that guarantees judicial independence, free from any interference. The judicial oath, taken by all judges, requires them to safeguard the law and administer justice, without fear or favour. Judges are required to adjudicate cases based only on evidence and law, setting out how they have arrived at such decisions in opening hearings and their judgements, which are available to the general public. As pointed out by the incumbent Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal: “Attempts to exert undue pressure on our judges by means such as threats of violence or doxxing are as futile as they are reprehensible.” Furthermore, the former Chief Justice had repeatedly said, in particular in his interview with the media on January 5, that he categorically denied there was pressure exerted on the Judiciary.   In the long run, the intrinsic strengths of Hong Kong, together with the advantages afforded to Hong Kong’s position under the “one country, two systems”, initiatives and opportunities of the GBA development will reinforce Hong Kong’s irreplaceable position as a leading international legal hub for dealmaking and dispute resolution services. We hope that we will join hands through concerted efforts in promotion and explanation to clarify misconceptions and misunderstanding.   Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on February 1.
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