Kung Hey Fat Choy! May I extend my warmest wishes to you for a prosperous and fulfilling Year of the Rooster!
Recent events seem to suggest that a shared theme of “uncertainty” will prevail across many nations this year, with Hong Kong as no exception. Locally, of course much anticipation currently rests on the outcome for next term’s Chief Executive-elect, and the uncertainties his/her new cabinet will bring for Hong Kong’s economy. As an externally oriented economy, the uncertainties triggered across shores – for instance by Brexit, US interest rate hikes, and a change of policy directions after the US presidential election, also cloud significantly the global economic outlook for Hong Kong this year.
Our industry, like many others, is one that thrives with the city’s economy, and against the backdrop of the many imminent economic uncertainties around the world, 2017 will be a challenging year for the profession. Yet I hope the Rooster and the auspicious symbolisms related to it may help us get through the challenges ahead.
According to Chinese astrology, the Rooster acts as a proverbial mascot to the virtues of civic responsibility, constancy, punctuality, courage, kindness, confidence and honesty – all values of utmost relevance within our practice. Just as it is the Rooster’s duty to crow each break of dawn regardless of wind or rain, the profession should, in particular, be reminded of the Rooster’s spirit of constancy and reliability in the discharging of their professional duties: that despite all uncertainties ahead, we must at all times uphold our professional standards and fulfill the duties owed to our clients, the Court, the public, and our fellow professionals.
At the 2017 Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year on 9 January, I also stressed the importance of the virtue of open-mindedness for a true professional: open-mindedness entails a drive to learn the requisite knowledge and skills to keep up with the changing demands of society and clients. Just as roosters are by nature always on guard and keenly aware of their surroundings (with “eyes at the back of their heads”), we as a profession must be vigilant and sensitive to the changing societal climate in which we live in. In so doing, this includes keeping ourselves abreast of the newest developments within and beyond our expertise, to ensure we are well equipped to overcome and address the challenges and problems of the future.
Like the Rooster, the profession must strive to use its voice for the greater good.
In the 2017 Policy Address, the Chief Executive highlights the Government’s efforts to sustain Hong Kong’s economic development by strengthening Hong Kong’s status as a global offshore Renminbi business hub and an international dispute resolution centre. The Government will continue to further expand cooperation with the Mainland and in particular, in the Guangdong area and to promote Hong Kong’s role as a super connector in the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Belt and Road Initiative is designed to expand multilateral ties among over 65 economies in Asia, Europe and Africa. The priority is on infrastructure development and connectivity. The business opportunities arising from the Belt and Road Initiative are of a massive and unprecedented scale. The Government has set up a dedicated Belt and Road Office to steer efforts on this front. It has also allocated $200 million to support the work of professional sectors to cooperate with overseas markets under the Belt and Road Initiative. The projects generated from the Belt and Road Initiative are expected to create a huge demand for legal services. From due diligence, financing, contract negotiation, drafting and enforcement to dispute resolution for cross border infrastructural projects, legal service support will be required.
The legal profession in Hong Kong, equipped with the necessary international experience and expertise, is well placed to meet these demands. Legal practitioners are encouraged to reach out to their counterparts in the emerging economies covered by the Belt and Road Initiative and pave the way for an active role in this visionary project. The Law Society will be organising an international Belt and Road Conference on 12 May 2017. Participants from the jurisdictions along the Belt and Road will have the opportunity to gather in Hong Kong to connect with one another and map out ways of future cooperation. The Conference programme will cover popular topics relevant to cross border trade and technological advancement in legal practice.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a long-term national strategy that will affect the development of the legal service market in the decades to come. The fruits of our efforts in the Belt and Road Initiative may not materialise in the short-term, but I see it as our duty to contribute in whatever way we can to secure a strong role for Hong Kong in the Belt and Road Initiative for the benefit of our future generations. I therefore strongly encourage you to join the Conference on 12 May 2017; as it will be held in Hong Kong, we can meet the international community without having to travel overseas.
Our participation in the Belt and Road Initiative is not all about business. It is also about sharing, connectivity and harmonisation.
As an established legal profession with a history of 110 years, we are well placed to share our experiences in legal practice with some developing jurisdictions. We pride ourselves as the pioneer in introducing a statutory mandatory risk management education programme for legal practitioners since 2004. The Law Society stands ready to offer training on risk management to those Belt and Road Initiative jurisdictions that are interested.
Building international connectivity, sharing risk management skills and assisting members to capitalise on the opportunities arising from the Belt and Road Initiative will be one of the major tasks of the Law Society in 2017. I call on your support for our first major event under the Belt and Road Initiative, i.e. the Belt and Road Conference on 12 May 2017. I look forward to seeing you at the Conference!