The Hong Kong courts' pro-arbitration attitude is evident from the continuous refinement of their dispute resolution mechanism. Such efforts are distinctly remarkable in commercial contexts, as demonstrated by the dynamics between the statutory company regime and the arbitration regime. Observing such intriguing interplay between the two regimes, this article examines recent decisions in disputes arising from corporate affairs and disputes relating to insolvency.
In September 2019 the Judicial Committee of the Supreme People's Court adopted the Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance in Court-Ordered Interim Measures in Aid of Arbitral Proceedings by the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (MAA). Pursuant to the MAA, a mainland court recently assisted the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) in an arbitration which had been referred to it by the HKIAC.
To tackle the unemployment and loss of income caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has introduced an HK$80 billion Employment Support Scheme (ESS) as part of the second round of anti-pandemic relief measures. The ESS aims to provide time-limited financial support in the form of wage subsidies to eligible employers to allow them to retain employees.
On 4 February 2020 Hong Kong reported its first fatality relating to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), which originated in Wuhan, China. COVID-19 has caused serious disruption to the Hong Kong economy and has had a considerable impact on the workforce. This article sets out some of the key issues that employers should consider in dealing with the outbreak, particularly with regard to discrimination, data privacy issues and employees' right to refuse work.
Since June 2019, Hong Kong has faced ongoing protest action. These protests were initially directed at the enactment of the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill, but their scope has subsequently expanded. This situation has created serious challenges for employers trying to manage and protect their employees. As these protests continue, employers must understand what they can and cannot do.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in the European Union in 2018. At its core, the GDPR aims to give individuals more control over the way in which their personal data is collected, retained, managed and processed. Despite being an EU regulation, the GDPR's application extends to companies in Hong Kong and employers there should thus be aware of what they must do to comply with it.
The Court of Final Appeal recently handed down a landmark judgment in favour of the LGBT community. Employers are recommended to review their policies to ensure that they are in line with the principles laid down in the decision. In particular, employers should ensure that spousal employment benefits (eg, those set out in employment contracts) also apply to same-sex spouses, in addition to opposite-sex spouses.
The Hong Kong Insurance Authority (HKIA) will take over the regulation of insurance intermediaries from the three self-regulatory organisations in mid-2019. Given that there are several sets of competence standards across these organisations, it is necessary to consolidate and update them in line with the statutory requirements to improve protection for policyholders. As such, the HKIA recently held a public consultation on two guidelines under the Insurance Ordinance (Cap 41).
In a recent case, the High Court allowed the defendants' applications to dismiss the plaintiff's two actions on the ground of abuse of process – in particular, given that no procedural step had been taken by the parties since 1 April 2009, just before the civil procedure reforms came into effect in Hong Kong. Although each application for dismissal based on abuse of process turns on its facts, this case demonstrates that egregious delay and inaction can prove fatal.
The Court of Appeal recently considered the general principles for granting summary judgment (judgment without trial) in the context of cases involving 'water leakage' between apartments above and below one another. Summary judgment is difficult to obtain in Hong Kong, save for simple debt-type actions. However, there tend to be few winners in neighbour disputes involving water leakage which are ripe for alternative dispute resolution, provided there is goodwill on both sides.
The High Court recently allowed a defendant to rely on an expert's reports at trial, even though the expert witness had failed to verify his reports with a statement of truth or include a declaration that he agreed to be bound by the Code of Conduct for Expert Witnesses. In the normal course of events, an expert report that lacks a statement of truth or a declaration will be inadmissible.
Since the general adjourned period (GAP) ended on 3 May 2020, when the courts resumed normal business in Hong Kong, reported cases of COVID-19 infection have approximately tripled. At the time of writing, Hong Kong is experiencing a 'third wave' of infections. The next few weeks appear to be crucial in ascertaining whether the rate of infection will ease – failing which court users face the possibility of another GAP, during which the courts could close again save for urgent and essential court business.
In Hwang v Golden Electronics Inc, the Court of First Instance of the High Court has approved a novel order allowing the plaintiffs to serve certain court documents on several of the defendants using a data room. The order provides that the plaintiffs shall send a court-approved letter by post or email to the defendants providing a link to the data room and, by separate post or email, an access code with instructions to access the data room.