The Law Drafting Division is responsible for drafting all legislation, both Ordinances and subsidiary legislation (such as rules and regulations), proposed by the government.
Legislative drafting involves a conceptual aspect, in which the drafting counsel ascertains and perfects the concepts to be used in the draft, and a literary aspect, in which the drafting counsel selects the best means of expressing those concepts. A general description of the nature of legislative drafting and of the various stages that a policy proposal undergoes before it is made as a law and takes its place among all the other laws of the Hong Kong SAR is set out in a publication called How Legislation is Made in Hong Kong: A Drafter’s View of the Process. Drafting counsel undertake important work throughout these stages: the development of a draft; the law-making process and the development of any amendments; and publication of the law. For various reasons, the role of drafting counsel has become more challenging.
Bilingualism is a feature of the legislation of Hong Kong. We draft in Chinese and English and, to assist users, there is an English-Chinese Glossary of Legal Terms (《英漢法律詞彙》) and also a Chinese-English Glossary of Legal Terms (《漢英法律詞彙》). For some time, the department has been working on the development of Combined English-Chinese and Chinese-English Glossaries of Legal Terms, with a view to publishing the glossaries for public use from 2021. The electronic glossaries will contain entries from all divisions of the department, link to relevant materials such as legislative examples and be easily searchable.
The Rule of Law requires that laws are accessible and so the division is strongly committed to:
A Guide to Styles and Practices is available and explains the drafting styles and techniques used when drafting legislation. Plain language drafting techniques regarding document design, structural organization and word choice are the main tools used to ensure legislation is easy to understand. As well as adopting plain language drafting, the division also adopts gender-neutral drafting.