By Ali Mashraf
The One Belt, One Road Initiative is a development strategy framework focusing on connectivity and cooperation mainly between the People’s Republic of China and the rest of Eurasia The initiative, proposed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2013 would help China to adopt bigger roles in global affairs as well as extending their trade opportunities in the Belt and Road region.
The International Academy of the Belt and Road, the first research institute in Hong Kong was established in January 2016 to build an international academic and professional connectivity platform. The academy hosted the ‘Third International Forum on the Belt and Road: Hong Kong-Beijing’ from June 11-22, 2016. Around 40 experts encompassing members of the Legislative Council, barristers, legal experts, professors, business persons along with university and high school students from the countries along the Belt and Road participated in this forum. Being a law student at University of Dhaka, I had the honor and privilege to attend as one of the overseas students participating at the program.
The forum started on June 12 with a round table discussion among the working group of experts on the paper, ‘The Dispute Settlement Mechanism for the Belt and Road Initiative’. The experts critically analyzed the paper and suggested various reforms to the proposed policies.
It was followed by the opening ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. During his welcome speech, Professor Guiguo Wang, President of the Academy and Chairman of Hong Kong World Trade Organization Research Institute said, “A sound legal environment is the foundation of the success of the Belt and Road Initiative.”
Vice President of the Academy and Chairman of Hong Kong Commerce and Industry Associations, Dr. Yuk-Lun Alan Lee addressed the students and said, “The young people of Hong Kong shall be aware of their important roles in the Belt and Road Initiative and they shall actively participate in it by broadening their outlooks and strengthening the interactions.”
Dr. Mei-Fun Priscilla Leung, the other Vice President of the Academy who is also the Chairman of Hong Kong Basic Law Education Association and Member of Hong Kong Legislative Council remarked, “The OBOR Initiative has created opportunities for the economic development and expanded room for cooperation among countries along the Belt and Road.”
The afternoon session included two symposiums where the experts discussed and made comparative analysis on the legal aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative and talked about the Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms in the respective countries.
Madam Farhana Helal Mehtab, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Law, Daffodil International University represented Bangladesh at the forum. She has been appointed as a Fellow of the International Academy of the Belt and Road. While receiving the Fellowship, she remarked, “In today’s world, the developing countries do not benefit proportionately from any trade related agreements. I hope that the same will not happen with the Belt and Road Initiative.”
After the Hong Kong sessions, the Forum moved to Beijing, the capital of China where the experts and participants met and exchanged views with the experts from administration, research, education and legal institutions.
The first visit was at the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) where they met with Cao Jianming, Chief Grand Prosecutor of the People’s Republic of China and Prosecutor General of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. The main responsibility of the Procuratorate office is to perform legal supervision by law and protecting the unified and proper enforcement of State laws. The delegation got to know in details about the functions and duties of the SPP during the meeting.
The delegation next visited Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, the organ assisting the Premier to deal with legal affairs, research and development, and cooperation and exchanges related to HK and Macau.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Basic Law Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) assists in interpreting the basic laws as well as studies and makes suggestions concerning proposals for amending them before the proposals are put on the NPC agenda. The delegation visited their office and a discussion was held with the Director of the committee thereafter.
The team also visited Tsinghua University campus. A seminar was held in the auditorium of the Tsinghua University Law School followed by the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the parties to work together on the Belt and Road project.
Additionally, the team visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and had a short meeting in the blue room where the daily press conferences are held. They were briefed about the functions and the daily activities of the ministry before taking a tour around the whole building.
The China Law Society plays a pioneering role in fostering legal research and promoting the rule of law in China. The delegation held a meeting with the China Law Society at the Capital Hotel. A MoU regarding collaboration in ‘One Belt & One Road’ project research and academic exchange between China Legal Exchange Center and the Belt and Road Research Institute of Hong Kong was signed.
The last visit was at the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) of the People’s Republic of China, the highest trial organ of the country. The delegation met and exchanged views with the Vice President of the SPC. The team visited the Information Center of the SPC where they were shown a presentation on how China was fully utilizing IT in their court system.
The forum ended with the closing dinner and vote of thanks from the organizers and concluding remarks from President Dr. Wang as well as the distinguished experts.
As a participant of the forum, I got to know in-depth about the legal aspect of the Belt and Road Initiative. It helped me in understanding how someone from the academia can actually contribute to the OBOR initiative from a legal perspective. Most importantly, during the visits at different legal and judicial institutions of China, I got a clear perception of the legal system of China and how it differs from the rest of the world, which is definitely going to help me in my pursuit of legal studies in Bangladesh.
Ali Mashraf is currently enrolled in the LLB (Hons) program of University of Dhaka. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org