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Chengdu Study and Exchange Programme | Beijing Study and Exchange Programme | Prison Visit | Summer Legal Placement
Chengdu Study and Exchange Programme

I never had thought Christmas would be an incredible learning experience. I was very fortunate to be offered an opportunity to join the Chengdu Study and Exchange Program organized by the Hong Kong Foundation for Legal Studies Limited. These unforgettable five days, allowed me to see with my own eyes, a city of immense culture, and most importantly a better exposure to the Chinese legal system.

What I appreciated most in this trip, was the opportunity to meet and talk to people whose cultures differ to Hong Kong, such as the chance to make friends with students from Sichuan University and also the chance to exchange ideas on the topic of legal aid. In the discussion, I realize the systems of legal aid are completely different; in Hong Kong, legal advice must be given by practice lawyers; where in China, senior law students are eligible to give the advice. I was quite surprised at first, but after deeper thoughts, this system, of allowing law students to give advice, is a real advantage as they could get their hands on handling real legal cases. Not only the discussion on the difference between the two legal systems, we are able to learn more about their career, for example, the future career path after graduation, how the locals perceive lawyers and their law examinations.

Photo taken in the front of Sichuan University library

One of the most impressive destinations was the Standing Committee of the Sichuan Provincial People's Congress. It was a non-public place, where we had the opportunity to visit and interact with the people of the high office. Additionally, we went to two Sichuan courts and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Chengdu. Through these visits including a hearing in a Sichuan court, I started to get the image of how the legal system operates in China. It is more than just a system where Hong Kong people usually perceive as a non-independent system where it may seem difficult to bring justice. It may not be true. People are the base units of every society, where each and every carry power, thoughts and propensities. China has a population of over 13 billions of people, the needs of each individuals varies which could be very complicated and alter each policy Hence, I am convinced that, with their history and traditions, the China can establish their one and only China legal system in this generation.

Photo taken in the Standing Committee of the Sichuan Province People's Congress

No one can forget the earthquake that took place around five years ago. Travelling to the aftermath of Beichuan, where the earthquake destroyed mountains, towns and villages from the face of the map, it is truly unimaginable the power of nature and how this tragedy that took away more than ten thousand lives. When I walked along the newly constructed pave way, with two sides of the collapsed buildings, I saw a girl of my age coming out from one side of a building with all traces of tears on her face. I believed she had just prayed to her loved ones who passed away in this incident. Living in a place like Hong Kong, without natural disasters like hurricane or tsunami, I could hardly imagine the pain of losing loved ones and wiping out the home you have had since childhood. It was a very cold day when I visited and I could visualize the harsh winter in the mountains of Sichuan, where millions of victims lived in temporary housing that gave little protection against cold wind and rain. We are blessed as we live in a materially affluent place, we live in the generation of we can get what we want. Sometimes, we take things for granted, therefore I learnt that I shall treasure everything I have at present, including time with families and friends.

We prayed those who lost their lives in that incident.

Other than confidential and stern places, we had been to tourist attractions including the Wuhou Memorial Temple which was one of the most valuable cultural relic and the most influential historical sites for The Three Kingdoms period. The most impressive landmark is the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Centre. The pandas we have seen in Hong Kong Ocean Peak are already adults, over 5 years old. Pandas in Chengdu are still in puberty, they are around 1 -2 years old, which are apparently more animating and most adorable; some pandas even climbed up a 5-metre high tree! After every daytrip, I hanged out with friends to try the local spicy food like hot pot and noodles. We had a good time exploring around the hotel, since the hotel was arranged on a street bustling with life. It was one of best moments to try Sichuan hotpot which was filled up with hot spice and Sichuan pepper where we can experience the numb and spicy. We revel in our good times and took videos and pictures with our new friends to capture the fleeting yet memorable moments.

The spicy hot pot enjoyed with friends after a daytrip

To summarize these five days, I can use three words to describe it: inspirational, substantial and overjoyed. The entire trip was well-offered; ranging from food to hotel, every fine point in the tour was planned and well-organised. Outside the classroom I got to see the cultural aspects of Sichuan, the food the culture. And the ability to see the aftermath of the earthquake was life-changing . The trip leaders are all legal professionals and the trip members are from different years and universities. We chatted and my knowledge on this career and the Chinese legal system was greatly expanded. Last but not least, I meet more friends. I enjoyed learning and playing a lot in the entire exchange program and will definitely join the activities and trips organized by the Foundation. I will surely recommend law students to join as the trips are indeed worth going.

Dinner prepared by the Sichuan Provincial Higher People's Court and other legal professions

Photo taken with friends in the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Centre

Hui Ka Lam, Year 1 LLB Student, City University of Hong Kong

Was it the heavily subsidized admission fee or its unique location that enticed me into joining the trip to Chengdu 2012/2013 organized by the Foundation for Legal Studies? At the end of the trip, it was none of them; it is the various opportunities to observe, from an objective window, the political and legal systems in China, and the culture of Si Chuan.

First, let us talk about “various opportunities”: a court observation at the local High Court, a conference with the representatives of the Si Chuan Province People’s Congress, a moment of silence at the earthquake site Beichuan, a travel back in time to the ancient city at Sanxingdui……the list goes on. Not to mention that some of these sites are out of bounds for the common folk, others are so profound that I would never forget; the revival of Beichuan from rubbles to a lively city still stirs much thought regarding our motherland China: how do we strike a balance between humanitarian issues and progress? How to eliminate the culture of officials building infrastructure just for the sake of impressing the communist party? Despite the multitude of thoughts, the conclusion is this: though needing much improvement, China has stepped out from its darkest days and would continue to excel in international stature. It is also without doubt that our generation would either see through this momentous project or to lay down the stepping stones towards it.

Patriotism and nationalism in this country is often politically associated with “red”-as in pro-communist party. Blind nationalism is certainly destructive to the individual soul, yet objectivity defeats that notion, which is exactly what the Foundation provides. It is easy to stay in Hong Kong and base our understanding of our country on the “entertaining” press. To step onto this huge landmass and walk into the lives of modern Chinese is but the most authentic experience one could hope to have. To believe solely the words of the state-assigned tour guides is ludicrous and is not what this trip encourages; the Foundation nurtures a multi-perspective-environment and encourages the participants to embark on the never-ending journey to seek answers from multiple sources.

I look intently to other projects held by the Foundation and would sign up without hesitation.

Julian Tam, Year 1 LLB Student, City University of Hong Kong

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Beijing Study and Exchange Programme

The Beijing Summer trip was not the first event I participated organized by the foundation. In winter 2010, I was first invited by my fellow schoolmates to attend the excursion to Wuhan which had widely broadened my perspectives and radically changed my attitude over the mainland ever since. Likewise, this year’s Beijing trip was equally fruitful and rewarding. It offered not only an opportunity to further understand the Chinese legal system, yet also a privilege to visit establishments and authorities that would otherwise be inaccessible. The chances to learn from prestigious, renowned scholars and legal experts of China were significantly beneficial to young law students enriching not only legal knowledge, but also a more balanced, comprehensive picture of the mainland situation untainted by the media.

Chan Chi Ho, Final Year LLB Student, City University of Hong Kong

適逢香港回歸祖國15周年,我參加了由香港法律交流基金會組織的北京法律研習交流團,在這個具有特殊紀念意義的年份,參加了這個具有特殊意義的活動,我深感幸運和感謝。 幸運的是,作爲一個香港的法律學生能夠那麽真實地參觀訪問祖國的政府機搆,與中央高官進行面對面心交心的討論交流,深入地了解中國特色社會主義法律體系和一國兩制與香港基本法,品嘗北京的地道美食和遊覽藝術文化街區;感謝的是,團長廖長江,副團長劉嘉華、許祈峰及其他工作人員爲了交流團的順利開展而付出的艱辛和努力,由於你們的付出才讓我們有如此大的收穫,在此,請允許我代表全體團員向你們表示由衷地感謝!






陳曉鋒 博士研究生 香港城市大學

I am honoured to have participated in the Guangdong Exchange Programme organized by the Hong Kong Foundation for Legal Studies back in June 2008. Not only did I gain an insight into the Chinese legal system through court visits and seminars, I also learnt about many other aspects of life – ranging from the rural, educational to political – in modern China. One particular highlight for me was the sharing session with students from Zhongshan University on the last day of the programme, during which all participants displayed honest, diverse and informed opinions towards China's future development. It is the combination of opportunities for learning and fostering meaningful friendship, that make the Guangdong Exchange Programme a truly extraordinary experience.

Kelvin Cheung, trainee solicitor, working at a city firm.

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Prison Visit

It was an extremely rewarding and valuable experience to take part in a visit to the Pik Uk Prison, a minimum security correctional unit. The visit has greatly widened my knowledge on the type of correctional services provided in Hong Kong. The prison aims to train the prisoners to acquire necessary skills and appropriate discipline in preparation for their future life rather than to penalize them by simply locking them up. The numerous types of training and work provided by the unit, such as computer training and furniture building, were also out of my expectation. In chatting with the friendly officers who guided us throughout the visit, their answers have cured my curiosity of the type of prison life provided and have marked a new page for my legal education.

Yolanda Chung, PCLL Student, Chinese University of Hong Kong

The 2 hour visit to the Pik Uk Prison had reminded me the correctional and rehabilitation functions rather than the penal effect of a prison on offenders. While we were toured around different areas inside the prison, officers had repeatedly reminded us that the Pik Uk Prison was one with minimum security. Although prisoners work, eat and rest under strict surveillance, cells were designed to allow normal socialization between inmates, and industries and vocational training were provided to them especially before release. Pik Uk Prison demonstrated a well balance of high level discipline required from the prisoners and a respect for their dignity.

Shanon Tsang, Second Year LLB Student, Chinese University of Hong Kong

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Summer Legal Placement

It has been 4 years since I read law in university. This summer, as my very last summer vacation of my Bachelor of Laws degree programme, I chose to do something which is really different. That is, to take part in the Summer Legal Placement Programme in Shanghai. It is about law after all, but the experience to work and live in Shanghai for 4 weeks is something that cannot be attained so readily elsewhere.

Now, the Summer Legal Placement Programme has come to an end. One can hardly imagine that it has been 4 weeks already. It is long. However, like many of us who enjoy the fascinating learning experience here, I find that the period of 4 weeks is still far too short for me to explore the Chinese legal system, the practice of the Shanghai Maritime Court, the city, and most importantly, the people here.

It is not easy to express my reflections from the Legal Placement Programme here as what I have gained is certainly beyond the scope that words can describe. I can only describe what I think of the Legal Placement Programme, and also, share what I have gained throughout these 4 weeks.

In April, when I got to know this programme, I looked at myself. I saw a law student who has studied law in Hong Kong for 4 years with legal work experiences in Hong Kong. This was pretty much the end of my bachelor degree study.

I have learned a bit Chinese law, nevertheless, my understanding towards the Chinese legal system and practices is still limited. Understanding that one can never experience something vividly until he puts himself into that environment, without any second thought, I applied for this programme with the expectation that I can gain some hands-on experience with the courts in mainland China.

I am very blessed to be selected as one of the participants and be arranged to have the placement with the Shanghai Maritime Court. It is a great learning experience. It is an experience which enables me to have a real taste of how the court in mainland China operates. It is an opportunity that I can never get in Hong Kong.

After the Legal Placement Programme, if one asks me whether I have learned a lot, I can easily point to the things remained to be learnt. However, by comparing my understanding of mainland's legal system and operation of court before and after the Programme, actually, with the effort of the organizer, the excellent arrangements and learning programmes prepared by the Shanghai Maritime Court, I have experienced so much that I did not expect I could have gained all these before I participated in this Programme.

Before the Programme, the main difference that I could pinpoint concerning the difference between Hong Kong and mainland China is that there are two different legal systems. With the contrast between common law and civil law system, the conduction of trial, court procedures, appointment of judges, legal principles, etc varies significantly. With the advancement of communication technology, though we can always learn some more differences on our own by surfing the internet, it cannot be better than learning the difference by experiencing it myself.

The arrangement prepared by the Shanghai Maritime Court is both fruitful and thoughtful. It is fruitful in the sense that we are arranged to have different programmes such as seminars, discussion forums, case hearing, judgment writing exercise, mooting and also out-of-court visit One could contemplate how packed the programme is going to be by scanning the programme schedule distributed to us on day one.

Yet, simply having a packed schedule does not the Placement in Shanghai Maritime Court good. Another component that makes this placement a great one is the thoughtful arrangement.

Rather than arranging us to learn from any particular judge over the 4 weeks, the Shanghai Maritime Court kindly gives us the opportunity to learn as widely as possible within the month we stay there. The idea is that, every week, we have programmes with a particular sub-court. Therefore, over the 4 weeks, we have exposure to Li'an Ting (立案廳), Haishi Ting (海事庭), Haishang Ting (海商庭)and Yangshan Paichu Fating (洋山派出法庭).

It has to be acknowledged that having the attempt to learn diversely with 4 sub-courts inevitably affects the depth of experience we can get in any single sub-court. Nevertheless, I would not have wanted the arrangement to be changed. The reason is very simple. It is only with such an arrangement that we can gain a broad picture concerning the work of Shanghai Maritime Court. Having the macro-perspective about its work can provide us with a solid foundation for understanding more about the operation of PRC courts in the future.

Apart from the general arrangement by the Maritime court as a whole, specific arrangements that we had in every single court are also impressive.

We laid the foundation of everything by learning from the Li'an Ting (立案廳)so that we can gain the first taste of how a case is filed in the Shanghai Maritime Court and the knowledge about what the Court works, how the cases are divided among different sub-courts, etc. After that, we were exposed to some more specific areas. For instance, by spending a week in Haishi Ting (海事庭), not only can I know more about the procedures of trail via the seminars and case hearing, I can also acquire the knowledge of the operation of the shipping business. Before that, I thought shipping business should be rather similar to other commercial practice in the sense that common sense is applicable to consider the matters in dispute. However, it is not until the case analysis with the judge that I know that the shipping business practice can be very different from other sectors of business.

This once again reminds me that what I have learned from books and university is so limited. To be a better part of the legal profession in the future, there is still much that I have to equip myself with. Even though my future career may not relate to maritime law, it is certain that the skills and attitude I have acquired through learning more specific practices of shipping business will be very helpful when I have to face new challenge . This is particularly important for my future legal career because lawyers are always required to keep themselves updated of the most recent development and knowledge of their practice areas.

Apart from learning passively, learning in Haishi Ting (海事庭)and Haishang Ting (海商庭)also enabled us to have active learning because we were given the opportunity to put the knowledge that we have just gained into actual practice. After the case hearing, we were asked to write the judgment ourselves as if we were the judges. Of course, this could not be done without some teaching by the judge concerning how to write a judgment of the PRC courts. It is quite an experience to assume the role of judge to write judgment. Also, we were arranged to have a mooting exercise based on a real case and write judgment afterwards.

I recall that there was one occasion that I asked the judge why the judgment in mainland China is relatively much shorter than the judgment in common law jurisdiction. After trying to write the judgment myself, I understand that in fact, it is already long enough for one to write. Also, it is a challenging task as it requires us to form good legal reasoning. Having evaluation from the judge after the judgment writing exercise further enables me to understand the difference of the 2 legal systems.

That is, the different roles of judges. Since the judge in civil law jurisdiction has to take a more active role, judges have to do much for facts investigation, which is to be done by the lawyers in Hong Kong's common law jurisdiction. Since I did not really have such concepts in mind before the evaluation, the judgment I wrote, which was entirely based on the arguments I heard in the trial, was essentially far from satisfactory. Nonetheless, it is still a very good opportunity for me to truly understand the different requirements for judges in the 2 legal systems.

I did not expect all these when I applied for the Placement. I have been very fortunate and blessed to be here. This Placement is great. The judges and people I met here are special.

The Placement comes to an end now, but it also signifies another beginning for me to explore Chinese law and mainland China further in the future.

Chan Shun Yin Shani

Time flies, days passed like I had just landed at Shanghai Airport yesterday. Looking back the weeks here I spent, there are hard times, fun times, meaningful times and fruitful times. We learn, we grow, we play and now here I stand, expressing my sincere gratitude to all the people who make this trip so astonishing.

Recalling the memories when I first arrived at the High Court attending the Opening Ceremony, I felt a bit terrifying about the new environment with judges around. However, soon after meeting with the persons-in-charge of the Maritime court, I was relieved by their friendliness and smile. After arriving at the Maritime Court, I am amazed about the high-technology facilities that the court process.

The discussion with judges helped in developing the knowledge about the PRC legal system and the legal career in China. Their experiences are the best teaching materials on how law works here. What we learnt were not something we can learn from books or lectures that we had at school. The discussions also boost my comparison of the Hong Kong and China's Legal System. How different they are and how similar they can be.

Besides having lessons and discussions with the judges, one of the most challenging inter-active learning activities was the moot court we had during week 3. The practical experience not only put the theories I learnt at Hong Kong or Shanghai into practice. It also brings the most complicated topic "procedure" into life. Although there was only one day to prepare for the moot, I enjoyed it very much.

Learning and working are always the hardest time but with this comparison it makes our fun times more enjoyable than it should normally be.

My happy weekends started with a happy Friday along with the arrangement of the High Court in visiting different marvelous places in Shanghai. We visited universities, museums, prison and famous sightseeing spots. Out of the various spots, the most memorable and meaningful one should be the prison. First, it would be hard for a general public to visit the prison unless, unfortunately, you have to visit somebody in there. The most touching part is the talent show performed by the prisoners. Though their standard may not be as good as professionals, however, in their performance I can see their efforts and hardwork. This was certainly not the best performance I had ever seen but it must be one of the most meaningful one. As a dancer during my secondary years, I know exactly how art and music can help people to express their feelings, train up their concentration and communication skills. Through performing arts the prisoners start their new life in a new way. From the applause of the audience, they regained their self-satisfaction and self-image. They build up their confidence to face their future by overcoming stage fright.

Besides staying at Shanghai, we also planned trips to HangZhou and SuZhou. Here I need to express my gratitude to our judges who are very willing to share with us with the good spots to visit within such a short period of time and most importantly what to eat!

Friendship is something I cannot miss in this whole trip. Above and beyond the people I used to know at school, I am glad to make more friends with others and especially the mainland students. Without their help and information, I think the start of my life at Shanghai would be much more difficult. Without their explanation during court lessons, I bet I won't understand so much information about the PRC legal system and how the law works here. Four weeks wasn't long in our lives but I am sure the friendship we built would last forever.

Last but not least, I would love to express my most heartfelt thanks to all the people who had contribute in this trip, especially Hong Kong Foundation for Legal Studies which had given me such a wonderful opportunity, making this legal placement a success and filled up my summer with so many unforgettable memories.

Julie Tang, Second Year LLB Student, City University of Hong Kong

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