Hong Kong and Mainland China adopt different legal systems. The former has retained the common law system, which was used by Britain, while the latter adopts the civil law system. The two places’ understanding about the rule of law also varies. Since China’s reform and opening-up in 1980s, legal exchange and interaction between Hong Kong and Mainland China have gradually become frequent. The two legal systems have gone through the break-in period and fostered the commercial and economic development of the two places. The success rests mainly with the legal practitioners’ unremitting efforts to build the legal infrastructure. Professor Betty HO from the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong was the pioneer of legal exchange between Hong Kong and the Mainland.
Professor Betty HO was born and raised in Hong Kong, and was familiar with commercial laws. During 1980s, she practised in a local law firm and was one of the few Hong Kong lawyers who took part in Mainland affairs back in those days. In 1992, Professor HO was invited to participate in devising the legal framework for the China’s state-owned enterprises to list in Hong Kong. During the working meetings between Hong Kong and Mainland China, Professor HO occasionally engaged in heated debates with the representatives of the Mainland, as she insisted in safeguarding the rights and benefits of the Hong Kong shareholders when state-owned enterprises came to list in the Hong Kong stock market. Professor HO was even more passionate about her legal education work. When she was teaching commercial laws at the University of Hong Kong, she was loved and respected by numerous students because of her conscientious teaching attitude. In 2002, Professor HO was hired by the Tsinghua University School of Law in Beijing. She resolutely left her job in Hong Kong and moved to Beijing alone to pursue her teaching career. Bringing the academic programme designed by her to Tsinghua University, Professor HO introduced the teaching of the common law system which was unprecedented in the Mainland at that time. She believed that legal education was one of the ways to foster a country’s development and improvement. In 2010, Professor HO, who had never been late, was absent at her last lesson. Her students went to her residence with doubt, and were surprised to find that Professor HO, who was always energetic, had passed out at home and become unconscious …
In the course of legal exchange between Hong Kong and Mainland China, Professor HO’s generation was the builder and initiator of the legal systems. These days, China’s economy and global vision have greatly surpassed those in the early years of its reform and opening-up. Does Hong Kong still have certain roles under China’s well-established legal system based upon the rule of law?