The nine Magistrates' Courts process about 90 per cent of the cases in Hong Kong every year. In 2002, their total case-load was 298 005. Altogether, there were 85 Magistrates ranging from Chief Magistrate to Special Magistrates presiding in these courts during the year.

THE legal system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is firmly based on the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary. Under the principle of 'one country, two systems', the HKSAR's legal system is different from that of the Mainland, and is based on the common law.

    The constitutional framework for the legal system is provided for, at the international level, by the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which was signed in December 1984. It is provided at the domestic level by the Basic Law a law enacted by the National People's Congress (NPC) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) under Article 31 of the Chinese Constitution. Both documents guarantee the continuance of the legal system that was in place before China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong on July 1, 1997.

    The first five years after the resumption demonstrated that Hong Kong's reunification with China was achieved smoothly, and that the legal system, the rule of law, human rights, and the independence of the Judiciary have been fully maintained and protected.