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The Necessity of a New Legal Training Academy in Hong Kong

Written by Julien Yuen for the Hong Kong Politics/ Legal Section.


Image source: Department of Justice, "SJ speaks at 5th UNCITRAL Asia Pacific Judicial Summit - Judicial Roundtable under Hong Kong Legal Week 2023," 2023. Accessed via https://www.doj.gov.hk/en/community_engagement/gallery/album20231107sj1.htmlIt

It is interesting that in a place where law schools already exist, Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive proposed an initiative to create a 'Legal Talents Training Academy.' This article examines why this could potentially have negative consequences on existing law schools.

The Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive delivered the annual Policy Address on 25 October. The annual address, originally modelled after the King’s Speech, outlines the government’s plans for the upcoming year. One notable initiative in this address is the establishment of the Hong Kong International Legal Talents Training Academy by the Department of Justice. The academy aims to solidify the city's position as an "international legal hub" by nurturing legal talents proficient in international law, common law, civil law, and China’s legal system. Additionally, it seeks to facilitate talent exchange across regions of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).[1]

 

While the Chief Executive assured confidence in the government's ability to execute this policy, a pertinent question arises: Why create a separate training academy when Hong Kong already houses well-established law schools capable of surpassing these objectives?

 

The law schools of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), the City University of Hong Kong (CityU), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) all offer programmes that not only match but exceed the proposed goals. For instance, both HKU and CUHK provide a Master of Law in Common Law, catering to graduates from non-common law jurisdictions, often Mainland China. Additionally, they offer graduate programmes specialising in Chinese Law.

 

CityU is a founding member of both the Asian Law Schools Association and the Center for Transnational Legal Studies, which offers programmes in international, comparative, and transnational law.[2] CUHK, on the other hand, hosts the Cross-Border Legal Issues Dialogue Seminar Series through its own Centre for Comparative and Transnational Law and provides a platform for participants to discuss various cross-border legal matters.[3] CUHK also hosts the Greater Bay Area (GBA) Forum to support the training of GBA lawyers through collaboration with other law schools, emphasising foreign and international law matters.[4]

 

All three law schools in Hong Kong have established global partnerships with law schools abroad, with many in mainland China, and often organise conferences, fostering dialogue between students.

 

This extensive list of programmes organised by the three law schools in Hong Kong underscores how they already surpass the proposed Hong Kong International Legal Talents Training Academy's objectives, rendering a new institution redundant.

 

The goals outlined in the policy address also seem somewhat self-limiting and regional, focusing predominantly on legal issues surrounding China and the BRI, an initiative led by China. This regional emphasis contrasts with the traditionally global role of Hong Kong as a connector between China and the West, as the Secretary of Justice expressed in support of the policy address, to establish Hong Kong ‘as a “super connector” between the Mainland and the rest of the world.’[5] In an era of increasing globalisation, it would be more forward-looking for a city with such historical significance to engage with broader international legal issues.

 

Even in a hypothetical scenario where existing law schools did not align with the academy's goals, a more prudent approach should involve investing in and collaborating with these institutions to develop new programmes. Established universities possess valuable assets, including experienced faculties, infrastructures, and a track record of academic excellence. Investing resources in existing institutions would save time and money, leveraging their expertise, international partnerships, and accumulated institutional knowledge.







References

[1] Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (2023). (2023, October 25). The Chief Executive's 2023 Policy Address. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://www.policyaddress.gov.hk/2023/en/policy.html

[2] The Asian Law Schools Association. (n.d.). Members - ALSA. The Asian Law Schools Association. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://www.alsa.asia/members/; The Georgetown University Law Center. (n.d.). Partner Schools | Center for Transnational Legal Studies. Georgetown Law. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://www.law.georgetown.edu/ctls/partner-schools/

[3] Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. (n.d.). CCTL - The Chinese University of Hong Kong. CUHK LAW. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://www.law.cuhk.edu.hk/app/centre-for-comparative-and-transnational-law/

[4] Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. (n.d.). CUHK LAW GBA Seminar Series - The Chinese University of Hong Kong. CUHK LAW. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://www.law.cuhk.edu.hk/app/cuhk-law-gba-seminar-series/

[5] Secretary for Justice. (2023, November 8). Speech by SJ at Legal Forum on Interconnectivity and Development. Department of Justice. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://www.doj.gov.hk/en/community_engagement/speeches/20231107_sj2.html

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