Chinese and English

Legal bilingualism is a fundamental feature of our legal system and the Law Drafting Division strives to enhance the reader-friendliness of Hong Kong’s bilingual statutes.

Hong Kong has a relatively short history of drafting and maintaining legislation in both Chinese and English. Starting in 1986, the Department undertook translation of all laws enacted in English only. The translated texts were declared as the authentic Chinese texts of the laws. In the process of the translation work, it was necessary to coin Chinese legal terms for English legal terms that had no appropriate equivalents in Chinese. With the completion of the authentication programme in 1997, all new legislation is enacted in both Chinese and English. Much progress has been made in bilingual legislative drafting. The division has progressed beyond word-for-word rendition (字對字翻譯) and the new Chinese terms have gained a level of recognition and acceptance.

The Chinese and English texts of Hong Kong’s legislation are of equal status (see section 10B of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap. 1)). Neither is subordinate to the other.