At the stroke of midnight on 30th June, 1997 Hong Kong was returned to the People's Republic of China. China takes justifiable pride in what has to date been a smooth transition, but the government in Beijing is now confronted by a demanding reality, the need to make detailed arrangements regulating the legal ties between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and the sovereign power. Not the least of the problems concern the degree and means by which mutual legal assistance in criminal matters will be made available. The puzzle for the People's Republic is that Hong Kong's dependent status begs a high degree of mutual cooperation with China, but the procedural safeguards that exist to govern Hong Kong's cooperation with third jurisdictions may not easily be used as a model: the safeguards built into the current legislation would operate to exclude the sovereign power! On the other hand, if future cooperation between Hong Kong and China is to take place without safeguards local and international confidence may suffer.
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