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DatePosted on January 28, 2015 at 01:30 PM
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10 unbeatable reasons why you should live in Hong Kong

by Chris Tang in Blog

If you’re a lawyer or a law student thinking about a career in law in Hong Kong, you may have wondered, what does it look like?  Why does Hong Kong have such a strong appeal to the legal and finance professions?

For a start, the Hong Kong cityscape along the harbour is an enduring and captivating image the world over – the bright lights, shopping malls, night life and world class cuisine will attract millions of tourists every year. And the backdrop of skyscrapers juxtaposed with the old and rustic buildings of 1960s Hong Kong give this truly international city its unique and mesmerising character. 

So, let's just look at a few of the 'wow' factors that keep drawing people to move to this world class city.

1. Outstanding countryside

Yes. You read that correctly!  Without fail, this takes visitors by surprise when all they expect is just endless skyscrapers all over Hong Kong. Just over half an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Central (the city's central business district) you have the breath-taking coastal scenes of Sai Kung national park, Repulse Bay or Lantau island where people flock to hike, windsurf, wakeboard, or enjoy a day relaxing at the beach.  Day return boat trips from Central ferry pier to one of Sai Kung's sleepy bays are a familiar sight every weekend from April to September.  With a relaxing day trip on the waters and surrounded by areas of outstanding natural beauty, you avoid the stresses of boarding a plane with hundreds of other passengers, transferring to a holiday resort and enduring the same tortuous journey back.  And in the cool winter months you can hike to your heart's content along hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails along the many islands and national park areas outside the main urban areas.  

2. The springboard to Asia

If you must, then hop on a plane at the visually stunning (and operationally slick) Hong Kong International Airport and you're anywhere between 1 to 4 hours' flight to any location in Asia.  Shanghai is a mere 2.5 hours' flight, Taipei's famous bubble tea or beef with noodles are 2 hours away. Or in the winter, go snowboarding in Hokkaido, northern Japan, which is just 4 hours' flight from the '852' (slang for Hong Kong, named after its international telephone code, naturally).   

3. Food, glorious food 

Nowhere in the world is eating seen as a serious hobby like in Hong Kong. The city justifiably holds its own for its local world class cuisine - Cantonese cuisine is known the world over and Hong Kong is at the source (pardon the pun) of many a famous dish.  

And you will never truly have eaten a truly sumptuous egg sandwich and a cup of milk tea breakfast until you have visited one of thousands of 'cha chaang teng'  or Hong Kong-style tea and noodle stores lining many streets of Hong Kong and Kowloon.  

Moreover, the swell of the ex-patriate community and the increasing numbers of local Hong Kongers who have studied or worked abroad have simply demanded the explosion of world foods to compete with the already excellent Cantonese cuisine, with highly authentic Italian, French and South American restaurants as well Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and other Asian style restaurants increasing the list of restaurant directories. Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay would agree, with both having recently opened restaurants.  

4. Night life

Every tourist will know about Lan Kwai Fong ("LKF"), the main street bar scene where thousands of people flock to on the weekend.  Go behind LKF and there are more bars on Wyndham Street and Hollywood Road, go further beyond and you will find the more hipster style coffee shops and independent restaurants in Wanchai, SoHo, Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun. Or head out to Kowloon and sample the wok fried street foods in Yau Ma Tei, Mongkok or Shum Shui Po. 

5. Shopping 

Whether you're shopping for small gift ideas or blowing your salary on the most expensive designer suit or handbag you can get your hands on, there shopping options for everyone. As the saying goes, 'if you can't buy it in Hong Kong, it doesn't exist.'

6. Safety first 

Hong Kong has one of the lowest rates of crime in the world, despite the territory having one of the most densely populated urban regions in the world.  Head to the MTR (Hong Kong's subway) at 12am and the feeling of agitation you will get is not one of fear, but one of why you simply can't get a seat because the trains are so full until the last train of the evening!

7. Public transport

You will never be too far away from a red taxi, mini-bus or tram, and at a fraction of the cost you would see in most international cities.  Half an hour in a black cab in London is likely to set you back £60-80.  In Hong Kong, the same distance will probably cost you £10-12. 

8. East meets west

It is one of the oldest cliches you will hear but it really is true, though for different reasons compared to ones given in the 1960s.  The explosion of Hong Kong onto the financial markets scene since the 1980s has drawn in major European and north American financial institutions.  But with the rise of China as an economic powerhouse since the 1990s, Hong Kong has managed to attract the luxury goods industry as fashion and cosmetic retailers vie for the mainland tourists who teem into the city every day.  

Together with the financial institutions, the luxury goods and cosmetic companies have brought in expertise, creativity and flair from around the world, thus creating a salad bowl of nationalities living and experiencing everything that the city has to offer.   

9. Low taxes

With income tax calculated on a sliding scale, reaching a maximum of 17% and corporate tax at 15% (as at 2014), it's not difficult to see why Hong Kong attracts so many traders and businesses, as well as professionals from overseas. 

10. A world class legal system

What’s more, and getting back to my point(!) Hong Kong has one of the most mature and highly regarded legal systems in the world, following the common law system of the UK, which gives assurance to businesses that they can operate in a safe environment where individual and commercial rights are upheld and safeguarded.   

As a Special Administrative Region of China (one of only 2 territories in the PRC granted this status and shared only by Macau) Hong Kong enjoys the (almost) unique status of ‘one country, two systems’. Upon the UK's handover of Hong Kong to the PRC, an agreement was made between the two sovereign states that life in Hong Kong would not change for 50 years. Some may dispute this, given the disturbances in 2014, but on the whole, the principle has remained upheld.

One of the impacts of this agreement was that Hong Kong would maintain the common law system that was introduced to the territory over a century before.  So if you’re already qualified in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or any other common law country, in theory you'll have one box 'ticked off the list' of hiring requirements as many companies and even certain practice groups within some law firms would hire an overseas common law qualified lawyer without necessarily them needing to be qualified in Hong Kong. 

Even so, there are many challenges that overseas qualified lawyers face, even those from common law jurisdictions, as set out in this article I previously wrote.

For a useful summary of facts about the Hong Kong legal system and industry, take a look at the introduction from the international branch of the Law Society of England & Wales. http://communities.lawsociety.org.uk/international/regions/north-asia-and-the-pacific/hong-kong/ 

About the Author

Chris Tang

Chris is a co-Managing Director of Star Anise and a former practising corporate lawyer.  

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