Bolstering International Rule of Law on Civil and Commercial Matters to Promote Connectivity
– Remarks by Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying at the Asia Pacific Week and the 130th Anniversary of the Hague Conference on Private International Law
The Honorable Chief Executive John Lee,
Secretary General of the HCCH Dr. Christophe Bernasconi,
Chief Justice Mr. Andrew Cheung,
Secretary for Justice Mr. Paul Lam,
President and vice chancellor Professor Zhang Xiang,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure for me to be here to meet all of you in Hong Kong. On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to extend our warmest congratulations on the 130th anniversary of HCCH and the Asia Pacific Week, and a very warm welcome to all guests present today!
Over the past 130 years, HCCH has grown from an ad-hoc diplomatic session to a permanent inter-governmental organization, and from a regional grouping of 13 countries in Europe, to a global organization with 91 members across six major continents. Founded on a mission to unify the rules of private international law, first in Europe, and now the world over, the Conference has developed 40 international conventions, making itself the most authoritative and influential international organization in the area of private international law, contributing to the development of private international law worldwide, and facilitating exchanges on civil and commercial matters across borders.
Throughout the years, China and HCCH have progressed together through win-win cooperation. Following the start of the reform and opening-up program, China began participating in the Conference activities in 1981, and became a full member in 1987. In the four decades since, China has taken an active part in the negotiations of various conventions and contributed Chinese wisdom in the legal field. So far, China has joined the Service Convention, the Evidence Convention, the Adoption Convention and the Apostille Convention. China has also made a big effort to promote international cooperation, proposed suggestions on improving the decision-making mechanism, and provided financial support to the Conference operation and development.
In these 40-plus years, China has benefited greatly from the outcomes of HCCH, which in turn helped us to develop civil and commercial laws at home. For example, we learned much from the Conference in terms of private international law in China, legal assistance on civil and commercial matters, and legal arrangements between the mainland and the Special Administrative Regions. In 2012, the Conference opened its Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific here in Hong Kong. The move has significantly increased awareness about the Hague conventions in the Asia Pacific, encouraged greater participation from the region, and stands as a good example of a win-win cooperation between China and HCCH.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The theme chosen for this Asia Pacific Week is most relevant. Justice and sustainable development are two major goals for social governance in an inter-connected world. Sustainable development is our fundamental pursuit, and justice is an important guarantee. We need both of them, and the two are mutually reinforcing. Today, the interests of countries are so closely linked that our world is becoming one community with a shared future. So many interactions are taking place between countries and cross-border exchanges on civil and commercial matters are becoming ever more frequent. All this requires legal cooperation in trade, investment and many other fields. Since HCCH has taken as its mission to harmonize the rules of private international law, there is much it can do to promote global connectivity.
This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past ten years, the BRI is turning from a blueprint into a reality, from a vision into action, and from a Chinese initiative to a global endeavor. It has won great popularity both as an international public good and as a platform for international cooperation. More than 150 countries and over 30 international organizations have joined the BRI family, and a large number of cooperation projects have been carried out in partner countries, bringing tangible benefits to local communities in terms of better lives and more development opportunities.
Next month, China will host the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. This will be a good occasion to plan for high-quality Belt and Road cooperation with partner countries and organizations. Promoting connectivity is a shared goal of the BRI and HCCH, and we believe cooperation on civil and commercial laws will give the BRI even stronger vitality. Working together, the BRI and Hague Conference will give an enormous boost to international legal cooperation on civil and commercial matters, advance the harmonization and development of international rules, and strengthen the international rule of law. With this in mind, I wish to propose efforts in three areas.
First, we need to respond to the needs of the times and improve international rules. As globalization deepens, there will be greater need for rules on trade liberalization and investment facilitation. On the one hand, HCCH may need to develop new conventions in view of the latest developments of civil and commercial law, speed up the negotiations on the Jurisdiction Project in particular, and provide more public goods in the area of private international law. On the other hand, it may need to revise the existing conventions to keep them up to date. In making these international conventions, it is particularly important to practice multilateralism, accommodate the concerns of all countries, in particular the interests of developing countries, find consensus across different legal systems and interests, and not to allow international rules to be replaced by the house rules of a few countries.
Second, we need to urge good faith and reinforce compliance. The vitality of law lies in its implementation. All countries need to exercise their rights according to law, honor obligations in good faith, and properly handle disputes. They should uphold the international economic and trade rules and the multilateral trading system, instead of taking unlawful actions in the name of law; they should promote equal and uniform application of international law, instead of a selective approach or double standards. Efforts should be made to strengthen the implementation of the Service Convention and Judgments Convention, advance international judicial cooperation, and foster a healthy order of civil and commercial laws, which serves as the legal foundation for economic and trade exchanges between countries.
Third, we need to enhance cooperation and promote inclusiveness and mutual learning. At the heart of civil and commercial laws is the spirit of fairness and justice. They reflect the history, culture and values of individual countries, as well as humanity’s common values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom. By drafting conventions, promoting implementation, and formulating model laws, HCCH has done an effective job in encouraging exchanges and mutual learning between countries on civil and commercial law. As we celebrate the diversity of civilizations and embrace the Global Civilization Initiative put forward by President Xi Jinping, we also need to enhance inter-civilization dialogue on the rule of law, overcome the differences and barriers through mutual learning and more exchanges, uphold humanity’s common values, and work for a community with a shared future for mankind.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Celebrating the 130th anniversary of HCCH in Hong Kong carries special significance.
After its return to the motherland, Hong Kong has registered robust growth, cemented its standing as an international financial, shipping and trading center, and continued to top the world in the level of freedom and openness. The Pearl of the Orient is shining ever brighter, attesting to the success of One Country, Two Systems in Hong Kong. In the legal field, it has developed a new constitutional order based on China’s Constitution and the Basic Law, by drawing on the strengths of both the common law and civil law and by combining the legal traditions of the East and the West. All these form the unique advantages of Hong Kong’s legal system. Under the new order, Hong Kong has a full-fledged legal system, a stellar contingent of legal professionals, and a highly developed legal services sector; it serves as a bridge between the Chinese legal system and other legal systems in the world, and a connector of diverse traditions of the rule of law.
Today, Hong Kong stands at a new historical starting point of order and greater prosperity. The decision to open regional offices here by international legal organizations such as HCCH and the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization is a vote of confidence in Hong Kong’s future and has brought new opportunities. It is our hope that friends from the law circle in Hong Kong will build up the city’s reputation in the rule of law, help establish Hong Kong as a leading center for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia Pacific, and add one more title “a center of law” to Hong Kong’s already impressive resume.
President Xi Jinping once asked Chinese people to have confidence in ourselves, in Hong Kong and in the country. I believe with the strong backing of the motherland and the unique advantages of One Country, Two Systems, all sectors of Hong Kong society will seize the opportunities and play ever significant roles in the great process of modernization and rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
In conclusion, I wish this event a full success.