It has been said that if Hong Kong people have a defining ideology, it is the rule of law.
It has also been said that the rule of law is one of Hong Kong's greatest strengths. It is the cornerstone of Hong Kong's success as a leading international commercial and financial centre, providing a secure environment for individuals and organisations and a level playing field for business.
As a matter of fact, Hong Kong achieved top places in a number of international rankings. Just to name a few, Hong Kong ranked:
(a) 1st in the 2019 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual guide published by The Heritage Foundation;
(b) 3rd in the 2019 Global financial Centres Index published by Z/Yen Group, which measured the competitiveness of the world financial centres;
(c) 1st in the 2017 Global Opportunity Index published by Milken Institute;
(d) 4th easiest place in the world to do business according to the Doing Business Report 2019 published by the World Bank;
(e) 1st in the number of initial public offerings among global exchanges as at Q2 2019 – Hong Kong Stock Exchange this year recorded 74 IPO deals as at Q2 2019, compared to 69 IPO deals at NASDAQ;
(f) 7th in overall competitiveness in the Global Competitiveness Report 2018 published by World Economic Forum;
(g) 2nd in the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2019 published by the International Institute for Management Development;
(h) 3rd in 2016 The Global Enabling Trade Report published by World Economic Forum;
(i) 4th in globally competitive centres in the Overall 2025 Cities Overall Competitiveness Rankings Table published by the Economist Intelligence Unit;
(j) 2nd in Market Potential Index 2019 published by GlobalEDGE Insights; and
(k) 3rd in Best Countries for Business 2018 published by Forbes
In these rankings, Hong Kong has consistently demonstrated distinctive strengths in category indices like the rule of law, infrastructure development, business environment and financial market access. Hong Kong takes pride in the wide recognition of our respect for the rule of law. It provides the comfort that Hong Kong offers a fair, just and transparent business environment for international investors to engage in business transactions in or through Hong Kong.
These achievements are hard earned. The recent public order events in Hong Kong have raised concerns about a lack of respect by some quarters in the community for the rule of law as a core value of society that has supported these achievements.
In his eminent speeches, our Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma has listed, for the purposes of evaluating the existence of the rule of law in Hong Kong, six indicators as far as the independence of the judiciary and the administration of justice in Hong Kong are concerned. They include the transparency of the legal system, public access to the reasons for the outcome of any court proceedings, ability of the public to verify that all judicial decisions have been made according to law and according to the spirit of the law through the reasons provided for the decisions, the system of the independent appointment of judges, effective access to justice, and views towards the court of those who are in regular contact with the legal system.
As members of the legal profession in regular contact with the legal system, our views on how justice is being administered contribute as an important indicator. We, as officers of the court, have a duty to articulate and promote a proper understanding of the rule of law and to protect it from being undermined, eroded or misused.
Take the recent debates in relation to decisions on criminal prosecutions as an example. It must be reiterated that any demands, requests, comments or actions that imply a deviation from Art. 63 of the Basic Law will threaten the integrity of Hong Kong’s legal system. Article 63 states that the Department of Justice (“DoJ”) shall control criminal prosecutions, free from any interference. In deciding whether to prosecute a person who has allegedly committed a criminal offence, the DoJ must fully evaluate the evidence and circumstances. It must also consider whether the evidence is sufficient to justify instituting proceedings and whether the public interest requires a prosecution to be pursued. Any attempt to interfere with the established prosecution process with a view to dictating a decision on DoJ is to be regarded as an affront to the rule of law and ought to be vigorously refuted.
Hong Kong, a place we call home, is a blessed place. Situated in the heart of Asia, it is centrally located with good connectivity, well equipped with convenient international and regional links and served by an efficient transport system. These enviable characteristics, coupled with a good infrastructure network and an abundance of world-class talents providing the necessary high-end professional service support have enabled Hong Kong to build up its global reputation as a leading financial centre and business hub. We have come a long way to achieve what we have today. Differences on controversial political and social issues are not insurmountable. With our long held trust and confidence in the rule of law as the cornerstone of our society, let us work together to resolve the differences in a lawful, peaceful and constructive manner for the future good of Hong Kong.