Common law knowledge is not so common

By Tony Hung

As a common law jurisdiction, Hong Kong has a well-calibrated legal system to govern the running of society. However, surprisingly few citizens are familiar with their rights. When legal disputes or occupational accidents arise, citizens, especially the underprivileged, know little about their legal position and are stranded to fight for their legitimate remedies.

As the pandemic arises during the midst of the economic recession, the number of legal disputes surge. The related legal disputes include unlawful dismissal, the medical remedy to employees who were infected with COVID-19, the breach of contract of SME due to delay in shipping and manufacturing and the insolvency of corporations. Both citizens and institutions are facing a challenging time, and the demand for qualified legal advice increase drastically.

Although the Legal Aid programme and duty lawyer scheme are here to assist the public who needs legal advice and legal representation in the proceedings, they fail to meet the massive demand of enquiries on preliminary legal issues. Luckily, there are institutions like the HKU legal clinic, which launched the Free Legal Advice Scheme to assist the public who have a genuine legal problem. On the other hand, the scheme also allows law students to strengthen lawyering skills for future practice in pro bono work.

As society prospers and the number of legal disputes mounts higher and higher, the government shall consider putting more resources on legal education and preliminary legal advice on different sectors, for instance, employment and commerce. The popularization of legal knowledge could empower citizens to protect their legitimate right and assist them to find justice when they are prejudiced.

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