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Mainland-HK Legal Cooperation Promoted

Lawyers from Hong Kong and Beijing are being encouraged to further cooperation in legal services under the Closer Economic Cooperation Arrangement (CEPA), a senior official with the Ministry of Justice said on Friday.

Zhou Yuansheng, deputy director-general of the Department of Directing Lawyers and Notarization under the ministry, made the statement when he interpreted the regulations on opening legal services between the two areas based on CEPA at the Beijing-Hong Kong Economic Cooperation Symposium which closed on Friday.

The CEPA is a landmark free-trade pact between the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), which was signed in June and will take effect on January 1, 2004.

The official said his ministry was formulating policies on collaboration between the lawyers' associations in the two areas.

Under the CEPA, Beijing and Hong Kong lawyers will be allowed to co-operate in contract form, meaning that they are able to share the same offices, employees and other resources after signing a contract, but they have an independent legal and financial status and are responsible for their own actions, Zhou explained.

He said Hong Kong people could apply for the annual judicial examinations organized by the Ministry of Justice, and if they obtained certificates to practice law, they would be allowed to handle legal affairs in Beijing.

Beijing's lawyers could also go to Hong Kong to conduct business in accordance with the same regulations, he added.

Zhou said the implementation of the arrangement would bring win-win results for both areas and help improve legal services in the two areas as these are highly complementary.

Zhou's interpretations were welcomed by lawyers from both sides.

When delivering a keynote speech at the symposium, Stephen Wong Kai-yi, an official from the HKSAR department of justice, said that lawyers' collaboration could help cut costs and decrease input in the management of personnel and routine work.

The teamwork also helps increase the client base of both lawyers associations and expand their business, he added.

Yan Jianguo, chief partner of C&I Partners, a legal service agency headquartered in Beijing, said he is planning to expand his business in Hong Kong.

(China Daily October 25, 2003)

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