Practices anticipate stability after death of China's leader

Lawyers in Hong Kong and China are claiming that the death of Chinese leader Deng Xaioping will have little effect in China, or in the handover in July of Hong Kong.

His death had been expected for some time, as it was well known he was suffering from Parkinson's disease, and lawyers claim this has eased any possible difficulties in the transitional period in China.

Karen Brewer, international relations officer at the Law Society with special responsibility for the Far East, said that Deng had played a key role in re establishing the legal profession in China.

Baker & McKenzie partner, Robert Pick, a Far East expert who helped set up the firm's Hong Kong office in 1974, said: “With China, uncertainty is the key word. But, personally, I feel that his death has not come as a surprise and will not cause any major problems for Western business interests in the country.

“His illness has meant we don't know how influential he has been in recent years, but overall he has made a massive impact, and the government has moved so far towards decentralisation that it will be very difficult for China to roll backwards.”

Ken Woffenden, managing partner of Simmons & Simmons in Hong Kong, said Deng's death would have very little effect on lawyers in Hong Kong “provided there are no major repercussions in China, which is doubtful”.

He added: “The leadership issue was settled some time ago, so there is an element of stability. There may be a short-term wobble in the stock market, but that will be a knee jerk reaction. The overall consensus in Hong Kong is that the effects will be minimal.”

Colin Passmore, joint chairman of the Law Society China Working Party and a litigation partner at Simmons & Simmons, commented: “The lack of immediate calamity in the stock market illustrated there was little panic over his death.

“With hindsight, his death has been expected for some time, and all the consequences seem to have been taken into account. I am very confident that the transition of Hong Kong's sovereignty will go ahead smoothly.”

Passmore added that Deng's open door reforms allowed foreign law firms into China, “which is of benefit to China and the world”.

“It was only 15 years ago that the legal profession was based on party politics,” she said, adding that she hoped his reforms would remain in replace.

“We don't know what's going to happen, it's too early to say, but the reforms in China are so advanced, it will be difficult for the country to move backwards. But they need to solve their problems of succession before we can be certain of anything,” Brewer said.