Category Archives: Reform

Qianhai Justice Center opens for business

On a corner of the Qianhai special economic zone in Shenzhen, a new building was recently opened. But this building is unlike any other of the gleaming high-rise office towers going up in the district. It is filled with judges, lawyers, and legal assistants from all over the world, and its mission is nothing less than to boldly push forward reform of China’s justice system – with Hong Kong as a partner.

The Qianhai Justice Center, the first permanent public building in Qianhai, is a part of a “national pilot demonstration area of law-based governance”. Begun in 2014, it was completed in August and opened for business on November 6. Its mission is to provide “one-stop legal services” to members of the public from anywhere within the Greater Bay Area: notarization, mediation, intellectual property rights registration and enforcement, accounting services, and in-house legal advisory services.

This is what being a Pioneering Zone for Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is all about.

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Baishizhou: a tale of Shenzhen’s housing challenge

Shenzhen’s housing policies have been the focus of intense online discussion in recent months, with many commentators and analysts comparing them to Hong Kong’s. The city’s plans to build 1.7 million new homes by 2035, at a rate of more than 80,000 per year, are unthinkable for Hong Kong, where the government has said it hopes to build 10,000 new social-housing units in the next three years. Moreover, Shenzhen has made it clear that 40% of its housing supply will be earmarked for subsidized housing – in comparison with its neighbor, where 29.1% of households live in public rental housing and another 15.5% in subsidized home ownership housing.

However, Shenzhen is not without challenges of its own in achieving these goals. And sometimes, examples come to light showing the complexity of the city’s housing market. One such case is the redevelopment of the Baishizhou neighborhood.

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In Hong Kong, rule of law test under way

There has been much debate in the media recently, on both sides of the protests, about whether the rule of law was being challenged or undermined. Much of it missed the crucial understanding of what the rule of law means – from a Western perspective, at least. 

Even those arguing for the rule of law, but who are against the police, have often failed to distinguish between abuse of the law and a failure of the rule of law. These are different concepts.

Those calling for judges to play their role in putting down the protests and returning Hong Kong to stability, meanwhile, are obviously talking about rule by law, which is also a different concept. 

In any case, Hong Kong is about to get the most vivid test of whether the rule of law is intact here – but it is likely to spawn a new round of controversy and endless debate over what the rule of law means. 

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Hong Kong’s role in GBA: keep calm and carry on

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, has received a bag of 16 goodies from her bosses in Beijing related to Hong Kong’s role within the Greater Bay Area. And the city’s role, in case anyone was wondering, is “completely unchanged”, she says.

The shiniest of these gifts from the central government is a complete relaxation on restrictions for Hong Kong residents to buy apartments in the nine Guangdong cities of the GBA.

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Top Shenzhen official busted for graft

Shenzhen has announced the fall from grace of a senior official: Li Longwen, former deputy director of the city’s Port Authority, has been dismissed from public office and expelled from the Party.

The announcement came after an investigation by the city’s Commission for Disciplinary Inspection, the anti-graft agency, which found that Li had “lost his faith” and was “not loyal to the Party”. Moreover, he had compounded his errors of judgment by confronting and challenging the investigation, according to the local media report.

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Guangdong to train ‘foreign-expertise’ lawyers

As Chinese companies increasingly “go out”, it is inevitable that they will need the services of lawyers familiar with the laws and regulations – not to mention the political environments – of overseas markets. However, it is not necessarily a given that they will use foreign law firms or lawyers.

Guangdong now has a college devoted to churning out lawyers who specialize in laws of other countries. As reported by local media, the Foreign-Related Lawyers College, believed to be the first of its kind in China, held an unveiling ceremony at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies on November 2. The college is a joint venture between the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou Bureau of Justice and Guangzhou Lawyers Association.

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Macau cleared to move Cotai checkpoint to Hengqin

Macau and Zhuhai will share a customs and immigration facility very soon, as Macau’s Lotus Port checkpoint has been formally approved to move over to the new Hengqin Port area and will open on December 20. This was confirmed by the National People’s Congress, which formally voted on Friday last week to lease a portion of the port area to Macau so that joint immigration and customs facilities can be managed there. Today, Zhuhai media declared that the move would happen by December 20. 

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Understanding the HZMB

It’s been a year since the Greater Bay’s symbol-to-beat-all-symbols of integration opened. Local media are full of gushing praise for the project; international media less so. Both are understandable. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is a testament to the scale of the ambitions held for the region, as well as to the challenges presented to the region’s capacity for change and reform.

There is much to be proud of. The HZMB, which runs from Hong Kong’s Lantau island across to an artificial island off the coast of Macau and Zhuhai, is a marvel of engineering, the world’s longest sea crossing. It is now much easier to get from the eastern to the western side of this densely populated region: journeys that previously took many hours have been cut, sometimes to less than an hour.

However, it has also been the victim of high expectations. The bridge is losing money on its operations – HK$1.9 billion so far, by one estimate – and traffic is less than half of original projections, even though it carried 14 million passengers in its first year. As anyone who has been on it can attest, this is a fraction of its capacity.

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Zhuhai opens to HK, Macau drivers with hukou

Another measure unveiled in recent days to spur headlines about the HZMB, if not traffic, has come with the announcement by Zhuhai that it will accept applications for temporary driver’s licenses from Hong Kong and Macau citizens. There is just one catch (there always is): it is only for those who already have residence permits for the mainland.

We can almost hear the groans from car owners looking forward to road-tripping across the bridge to the more picturesque side of the Bay. Don’t worry, once Zhuhai gets serious about letting you in, we will let you know. This is the way it works on the mainland. Inch by inch.

Meanwhile, it’s been a year since the bridge opened. It hasn’t lived up to its potential, yet. But there is still much to look forward to, as long as taxpayers are prepared to write off and forgive. We take a look at the pros and cons of it on our website.

GBA driving licenses a reality, sort of

A small quota of drivers with cross-border licenses has been approved for the first phase of a pilot program that is being called a “GBA license”. It allows drivers to move freely between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau, via certain checkpoints.

If all goes well, the program will be expanded after six months. 

It is not easy to understand the new licensing regulation just by reading the announcement on various government websites. Even the Hong Kong Transport Department announced it in such a way that the SCMP misunderstood it initially, thinking this was a move to open Zhuhai to Hong Kong drivers. It is not. It is nothing more, or less, than a way for Macau and Hong Kong drivers to go through each others’ territories in accessing Guangdong. 

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