Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). China extended the Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters to Hong Kong by note dated June 10, 1997 from the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) had previously acceded to the Convention, also called the Hague Service Convention, six years earlier. Its provisions entered into force in China on January 1, 1992.
US attorneys seeking service in all parts of the People’s Republic of China, including Hong Kong, would be wise to familiarize themselves with the mandatory character of the Convention as set forth in Volkswagenwerk A.G. v. Schlunk, 486 U.S. 694 (1988).
Canadian attorneys should consult provincial precedent — Canadian courts take a more nuanced view of the Convention, but effectively reach the same conclusion: its limitations must be observed. Regardless of forum court requirements, the service rules of the receiving country must be observed, or enforcement of a judgment may become impossible.
Prior to the end of British rule, and consequent handover to PRC authority, in 1997, Hong Kong’s economy was vibrant and dynamic. The colony had significant trade relationships with the west, and the absorption of Hong Kong into the Chinese fold has only served to enhance Hong Kong’s role in the global marketplace.
Given such economic ties, it is no wonder that Hong Kong’s residents and companies are often parties to suit in western courts.
Hong Kong’s court system, though moving more toward China’s civil law tradition, still has a distinct common law flavor due to its development as a British outpost. Chinese and English are both official languages, so while the PRC requires a translation into Chinese of all documents served elsewhere in China, service in Hong Kong does not require a translation from English. Note that the resulting Certificate of Service may be completed in Chinese.
Hong Kong, more than any other country in the world, scrutinizes the actual text of the documents to be served. Hong Kong judicial authorities are very sensitive to the Special Administrative Region’s relationship with China and pay very close attention to any language that would “elevate” Hong Kong to the status of China (as a sovereign nation).
Litigants intending to serve Hong Kong defendants should contact LLS for information prior to filing their complaints. LLS can guide you through Hong Kong’s unwritten requirements for language in the text of the complaint in order to circumvent rejection of a Hague Service Request.
The Central Authority for the Hong Kong SAR is:
Chief Secretary for Administration
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government
Room 321, 3/F, East Wing
Central Government Offices
2 Tim Mei Avenue
Hong Kong, China
Unlike elsewhere in the PRC, service via alternate channels may be utilized in Hong Kong. LLS’ network of solicitors is highly adept at serving quickly, efficiently and economically.
Call 800-755-5775 to speak with one of our staff attorneys about service of process in Hong Kong.
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