Consolidate and Enhance Hong Kong’s status as a Centre of International Legal and Arbitration service
3 February 2021
Dr. Thomas S.T. So, JP, Chairman of eBRAM
Recently, local media quoted from the news article “Companies consider writing Hong Kong out of legal contracts” published by Financial Times on 31 January 2021, claiming that lawyers at 10 international law firms received enquiries from companies on considering excluding Hong Kong as an arbitration venue from legal contracts over concerns China’s policy may affect the rule of law the Hong Kong SAR. The Secretary for Justice blogged and emphasized that Hong Kong will continue to serve as an international legal hub, and hoped we will join hands through concerned efforts to promote and explain any misconceptions and misunderstanding in Hong Kong’s arbitration and legal services.
As an arbitrator, a partner of an international law firm, and the Chairman of an online dispute resolution body, I believe that the article is not entirely accurate and misunderstands the development of Hong Kong’s legal services.
Hong Kong‘s return to stability facilitates the development of arbitration and legal services
With the resumption to stability from last year, more foreign companies started to resume economic activities with the Mainland and other areas through Hong Kong. As such, demands on Hong Kong’s legal services, including arbitration and mediation services, have been increasing day by day.
New opportunities for Hong Kong legal service
Hong Kong embraces an independent legal system and an advanced legal framework for arbitration and dispute resolution. With the implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative and development of the Greater Bay Area, interactions among the Mainland and other economies become highly active. This has brought new and important opportunities for Hong Kong legal services including arbitration and mediation services.
In the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong- Macao GBA, Hong Kong is earmarked as the international legal service and dispute resolution service centre.
Investment arbitration cases usually require effective interim measures for the protection of assets and evidence. According to the “Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance in Court-ordered Interim Measures in Aid of Arbitral Proceedings by the Courts of the Mainland and of the HKSAR” which took effect on 1 October 2019, a party in a Hong Kong arbitral proceeding can apply for protection measures to the court of the Mainland before an arbitration award is rendered. Hong Kong is currently the only common law jurisdiction globally which has signed such arrangement with the Mainland. This unique advantage has further alleviated Hong Kong’s position as the bridge for investment activities for overseas enterprises in Greater Bay Area and the Mainland. On the past few months, I have already received a number of enquiries from foreign investors on how to invest in the Greater Bay Area through Hong Kong.
In 2017, Hong Kong signed the “Free Trade Agreement” and related “Investment Agreement” with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). These agreements take effect from 2019, covering collaborations in service trading, investment, economy and technology, as well as dispute resolution and related areas. All members of ASEAN are economies along the “Road and Belt” route and play important roles.
Hong Kong’s impeccable commercial environment and well-established legal system attract many enterprises from ASEAN countries to establish their presence and start their business through Hong Kong. All these new developments have brought new opportunities for Hong Kong’s legal services.
Develop Hong Kong’s LawTech services
The “Chief Executive’s 2020 Policy Address” has recognized the importance of law technology development. Following the launch of the “LawTech Fund” and “COVID-19 Online Dispute Resolution Scheme”, the Department of Justice is actively exploring the development of the Hong Kong Legal Cloud service. These visionary policies and measures are extremely important for alleviating Hong Kong’s legal service level and maintaining its leading position in Asia Pacific region, which are also widely supported and well-acclaimed among the legal and commercial sectors.
Hong Kong as the international legal services and online dispute resolution centre
To conclude, Hong Kong has been playing an important role in legal services provision in the country’s development policies. Hong Kong continues to refine its well-established legal and advanced arbitration systems, and strives to developing online dispute resolution and LawTech services. These new developments further strengthen Hong Kong’s irreplaceable status as the dispute resolution and international legal service hub.
There had been rumours about companies considering excluding Hong Kong as an arbitration seat from legal contracts over concerns Hong Kong’s handover before and after the return of sovereignty to China in 1997. Despite such rumours, Hong Kong has proved its strength and value through continuous enhancement in its arbitral system and legal framework in the past 20 years after the handover, and tops other key cities in Asia with its ranking in global judicial independence as well as the number of disputes handled. In light of the above factors, I firmly believe that Hong Kong will continue to lead in the international legal services and dispute resolution services space.
Statement of Support for development of the Hong Kong Legal Cloud and other LawTech Initiatives in the Chief Executive’s 2020 Policy Address
25 November 2020
The eBRAM International Online Dispute Resolution Centre (“eBRAM”) welcomes and supports the initiative of the Chief Executive’s 2020 Policy Address to explore the development of the Hong Kong Legal Cloud (HKLC) and other LawTech initiatives.
With the advancement of technology, Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) has undergone rapid development in recent years. The outbreak of COVID-19 Pandemic has further accelerated the use of ODR globally. We observe that many ODR proceedings are conducted via common and open technologies, and data transmission and storage of these proceedings are generally difficult to be tracked and traced.
We are pleased to learn that the Government recognize the importance of data protection and decided to build a state-of-the-art HKLC with advanced information security technology. We believe that the HKLC will address the increasing needs for secure, reliable, and affordable data storage services for the local legal and dispute resolution sector.
Dr Thomas So, JP, Chairman of eBRAM said, “as a stakeholder in ODR community, eBRAM, with its current team, will fully support the Government’s initiatives in developing the Hong Kong Legal Cloud. We believe that it will reinforce Hong Kong as a hub for international legal services.”
As an ODR service provider, we emphasize data protection in the provision of our ODR services. Thanks to the Government’s generous support, eBRAM has become the first and currently the only institution in Hong Kong that has the capacity to develop technologies locally dedicated to online deal-making and dispute resolution platform, including video-conferencing technology dedicated to online mediation meeting and arbitration hearing. All information submitted to the eBRAM platform is stored in a secured and private cloud in Hong Kong managed by eBRAM and protected by Hong Kong law. Our platform addresses the concerns of those who wish to have a higher level of security of data protection in ODR proceedings.
We have applied our ODR platform for the implementation of COVID-19 ODR Scheme under the anti-epidemic fund 2.0, and it operates very well, serving parties inside and outside of Hong Kong and with enhanced cyber security and privacy protection measures.
eBRAM looks forward to working closer with the Government in developing the HKLC and other initiatives for enhancing Hong Kong’s status as a leading hub for LawTech and dispute resolution services.
eBRAM International Online Dispute Resolution Centre Limited (“eBRAM”) is a not-for-profit organisation established in 2018 under the laws in Hong Kong, supported by the Asian Academy of International Law Limited, Hong Kong Bar Association, Law Society of Hong Kong, and Logistics and Supply Chain MultiTech R&D Centre Limited.
We are committed to provide a secure, innovative and comprehensive ODR platform, which is low-cost and affordable for MSMEs, thereby facilitating their business operation and also achieving “better access to justice”.
eBRAM has also been actively participating in seminars and workshop organised by APEC Economic Committee, contributing to the development of the ODR Framework and the workplan for promoting the adoption of ODR for or developing an APEC-wide cooperative ODR framework for MSMEs in B2B transactions and using modern technology for dispute resolution and electronic agreement management.
eBRAM headquarters in the West Wing of Justice Place which is part of the Legal Hub where houses a number of reputable international and regional organisations specialising in legal or dispute resolution services. eBRAM also has a branch office in Cyberport which is an innovative digital community in Hong Kong.
For further information of eBRAM, please visit www.ebram.org.
Ms Elaine Ching
eBRAM launches an innovative and cost-effective online platform to resolve COVID-19 related disputes
30 June 2020