Hong Kong 2003
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The Legal System
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The Secretary for Justice

The Secretary for Justice heads the Department of Justice, and is the Chief Executive's legal adviser and a member of the Executive Council. The Secretary for Justice chairs the Law Reform Commission and the Committee on Bilingual Legal System, and is also a member of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission and the Operations Review Committee of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The Secretary for Justice is the representative of the HKSAR Government in all actions brought by, or against, it and is also responsible for the drafting of all government legislation.

The Secretary for Justice is responsible for all prosecutions in the HKSAR, with responsibility for deciding whether a prosecution should be instituted in any particular case, and, if so, for instituting and conducting the prosecution.

The Department of Justice provides legal advice to all government departments and bureaux. The department consists of the Secretary for Justice's Office and six divisions, five of which are each headed by a Law Officer to whom the Secretary for Justice delegates certain powers and responsibilities. The remaining division, headed by the Director of Administration and Development, handles departmental administration. The Secretary for Justice's Office provides legal and administrative support to the Secretary for Justice in respect of her many functions.

The Civil Division, headed by the Law Officer (Civil Law), provides legal advice to the Government on civil law, drafts commercial contracts and franchises and conducts civil litigation, arbitration and mediation, on behalf of the Government. The division also provides counsel to the Market Misconduct Tribunal.

The International Law Division, headed by the Law Officer (International Law), advises the Government on issues relating to public international law. Lawyers in this division also participate in the negotiation of agreements and arrangements with other jurisdictions and, as members of the Chinese delegation, at the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The division also handles requests to and from the HKSAR for international legal cooperation.

The Law Drafting Division, headed by the Law Draftsman, is responsible for drafting all legislation, including subsidiary legislation, in Chinese and English, and assists in steering legislation through the Executive and Legislative Councils. It is also responsible for compiling the loose-leaf edition of the Laws of Hong Kong and for maintaining the computer database of Hong Kong's legislation known as the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS), which is freely available on the Internet.

The Solicitor General heads the Legal Policy Division, which includes the Law Reform Commission Secretariat. The division provides legal input — with emphasis on legal policy values — on a wide variety of topics being considered by the Government, and also advises on issues affecting the administration of justice, human rights, constitutional law, China law and the Basic Law.

The Prosecutions Division is headed by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Counsel from this division conduct most criminal appeals, including those to the Court of Final Appeal. They also conduct the majority of trials in the Court of First Instance and the District Court and, when necessary, they prosecute in the Magistrates' Court. The division also provides legal advice to law enforcement agencies and other government departments.

In order to enhance civil servants' understanding of the Basic Law, the Civil Service Training and Development Institute (CSTDI) has been organising regular seminars on the subject since 1995. Besides university lecturers and officers from relevant government departments, counsel of the Department of Justice have also been invited to be speakers in these seminars. Specific training courses for particular bureaux and departments are arranged as necessary. The Basic Law is also covered in the curriculum of some China studies courses organised by the institute, such as the foundation course taught at the Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Since 2001, the Legal Policy Division and the CSTDI have co-published the Basic Law Bulletin on a regular basis in order to promote greater awareness and knowledge of the Basic Law among civil servants. In 2002, the department assisted the institute in the production of a new Basic Law web course as well as in the organisation of various Basic Law promotional activities.

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