The Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year


Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year 2011
Yesterday I was invited as a guest to the City Hall to observe the opening of the legal Year 2011 which took place with appropriate pomp and ceremony. In attendance were over 180 judges of various rank and statuses, barristers, magistrates and other legal counsel and at the top the new Lord Chief justice, Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, pictured below. He has just taken on the role from the previous incumbent who has, I believe been in the role since 1997.
Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li attends the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year 2011 at City Hall, Central.

Despite Hong Kong becoming part of Mainland China in 1997 the legal jurisprudence remains essentially british and indeed Mau commented on the adversarial system which was at the heart of HK legal administration. It is unsurprising then that the ceremonial grabs worn by the judiciary were echoes from its colonial past. Indeed around 15% of the judges remain expatriates and this includes some of the highest legal counsel there.

The judiciary of Hong Kong

There were 4 speeches, all given in english though with Cantonese sub-titles in the video screens above. A lot of the focus was on the introduction of mediation into the judicial systems which whilst supported by Mau was given a cautionary reception by two of the other speakers. certainly there was a danger of mediation replacing litigation when it was not justified and this concern was discussed.

Being a formal event there were no questions or discussion. The City Hall was full of people and infront of us sat many retired judges enjoying their day out. I met the Chief Magistrate in the reception afterwards who had started as a probation officer then be encouraged to change career in 1990s in anticipation of a mass exodus of the expatriates, which he commented, had not in fact happened.

This event followed quickly on one I attended last week which was the Annual Reception of the Correctional Services Department. Although a less formal affair it was another example of the continuing ceremonials which probably hang over from colonial days. It was a good networking opportunity and I met and received many of their business cards. On the surface all are interested in what I do and where I have come from but their politeness is expected and given so difficult to get beyond that to any depth of conversation. Here the short address was in Cantonese which was helpfully translated for me by one of the staff and I clapped in the appropriate places.

Two outings for my suit in just a few days, quite useful as wearing a jacket helped keep away the cold which has unexpectedly descended on Hong Kong. Even I feel the need for the heater in the apartment and wearing a jacket whilst out has now happened on a few occasions. This is not really a complaint as it is still relatively mild compared to the UK and is much more bearable then the heat and humidity of the summer months. But just a little warmer would be nice.

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