In July 2019, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Justice visited Beijing for a few days to attend the second Belt & Road Joint Conference. In addition, the Secretary also took the opportunity to visit the Beijing Internet Court.
With the basic idea of “online case heard online”, the Beijing Internet Court adopts an e-litigation platform and utilises artificial intelligence technology to generate pleadings, real-time voice-to-text and the basic information of judgments.
Hearings are conducted through the electronic platform on which parties to the litigation are not required to appear in person. The court, integrated with intelligent technology, brings easy access to justice for all parties.
To echo with Goal 16 of “the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals” – promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government indicated support for the development of an online dispute resolution and deal-making platform.
A non-governmental organisation, eBRAM (Electronic Business Related Arbitration & Mediation) is tasked with developing such a platform to provide efficient and cost-effective online dispute resolution services.
The NGO will use an Internet-based online platform to facilitate the provision of one-stop dispute resolution services.
To ensure a smooth operation in future, the staff of the NGO visits different places, such as the Beijing Internet Court, to learn more about the technology for e-Litigation platform.
At the same time, they also share their experience with institutions from other jurisdictions. Participation in the discussion on the development of online dispute resolution at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is an example.
One of the characteristics under development by the NGO is making use of artificial intelligence and advanced technology to provide a secure platform for the upload, download and exchange of case materials to assist parties in resolving disputes and entering into business deals.
Users will be able to access the platform anywhere around the world with only an Internet connection. It will not only facilitate the development of local micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and legal professionals under the Belt & Road as well as Greater Bay Area initiatives but also create synergy with existing dispute resolution service providers.
Innovative technology has greatly helped the development of dispute resolution services. The Secretary of Justice stated that she believes the establishment of a safe, reliable and credible platform to provide enterprises with cost-effective online dispute resolution services will become a new trend.
The Government will continue to actively promote LawTech. It is hoped that eBRAM will provide a more convenient way to extend access to justice in a bid to strengthen our rule of law.
HK boosting legal links Mainland
In an earlier press release, the Secretary of Justice noted that the Belt & Road Initiative straddles different borders, cultures and legal systems. It reflects the design of the new type of international relations, featuring win-win co-operation.
It creates new globalism, and advocates harmony, multilateralism and inclusiveness. It resonates with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and reinforces each other.
The Secretary brought up the policy angle of the rule of law; one facet of it being dispute resolution. The number of co-operation agreements and memorandums of understanding that have been signed under the initiative is 176 and the number is still growing.
Despite this, the implementation may create differences leading to conflicts and disputes. It is of paramount importance that a dispute avoidance and resolution system which echoes the spirit of the initiative be developed to ensure that the common cause of this new international co-operation for development remains the priority.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is keen to collaborate and develop such a system. Hong Kong is privileged to have a sound and robust legal system, coupled with up-to-date and fair arbitration and mediation laws and practice that have earned international recognition.
Under the principle of shared growth through discussion and collaboration, active consideration may be given to the provision of diversified dispute resolution services for Belt & Road countries.
Hong Kong hopes to contribute to the implementation of the Belt & Road Initiative, and facilitate the communication and collaboration of different countries, thereby ushering in an all-win situation and contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, Goal 16.
Thus, the setting up of the e-Litigation system will help achieve these goals faster and is another way to boost ties with the Mainland.