To pursue the objective of effective implementation of the "one country, two systems" principle, the Department of Justice has taken steps to develop mutual legal assistance between the Mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) so that disputes with cross boundary elements could be dealt with more effectively.

Under Article 95 of the Basic Law, the HKSAR "may, through consultations and in accordance with law, maintain juridical relations with the judicial organs of other parts of the country, and they may render assistance to each other".

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Apart from the arrangement on mutual enforcement of arbitral awards signed in June 1999, in accordance with the provision of Article 95 of the Basic Law and through mutual consultation between the Supreme People's Court and the HKSAR Government, arrangement has been made in July 2006 for the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters pursuant to choice of court agreements made between the parties concerned (the "Choice of Court Arrangement"). Amendments to the Choice of Court Arrangement were made in February 2008 to reflect the new provisions in the amended Civil Procedure Law of the Mainland regarding the time limit for application for execution of judgments (by extending the time limit for an applicant to apply for recognition and enforcement of a judgment from one year (if one or both of the parties were natural persons) or six months (if both parties were legal persons or any other organizations) to a standardized period of two years).

The Choice of Court Arrangement covers money judgments given by a designated court of either the Mainland or the HKSAR exercising its jurisdiction in business-to-business agreements where the parties concerned have agreed in writing to designate a people's court of the Mainland or a court of the HKSAR as the forum to have sole jurisdiction for resolving such disputes. Apart from specifying the scope of cases and level of courts covered, the Choice of Court Arrangement also provides for grounds for refusal of enforcement which are similar to common law rules and those stipulated under the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Ordinance (Cap.319). Moreover, special procedures which are generally in line with the requirements laid down by Hong Kong courts are provided in the Choice of Court Arrangement to address the common law requirements of finality for enforcement of money judgments. Please click here for key features of the Choice of Court Arrangement.

To give effect to the Choice of Court Arrangement, the Mainland Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Ordinance (Cap. 597) was enacted in April 2008 and came into effect on 1 August 2008 whereas the Supreme People's Court has promulgated the relevant judicial interpretation giving effect to the Choice of Court Arrangement in the Mainland.

The list of Primary People's Courts authorized to exercise jurisdiction of the first instance in civil and commercial cases involving foreign, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan parties has been updated by the Supreme People’s Court and incorporated into the Choice of Court Arrangement as an annex thereto. The updated list of recognized Primary People’s Courts was published by the Secretary for Justice in the Gazette on 14 December 2018 (G.N. 9195) pursuant to section 25(1) of the Mainland Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Ordinance (Cap. 597). Please refer to G.N. 4289 for the list of recognized Primary People’s Courts published by the Secretary for Justice in the Gazette on 25 July 2014.

The Choice of Court Arrangement will be superseded upon the commencement of the Arrangement on Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters by the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“REJ Arrangement”). However, the Choice of Court Arrangement will continue to apply to a “choice of court agreement” in writing made between the parties before the commencement of the REJ Arrangement.

To facilitate the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of civil judgments in matrimonial and family matters between HKSAR and the Mainland, the Arrangement on Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Civil Judgments in Matrimonial and Family Cases by the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was signed between the Supreme People's Court and the HKSAR Government on 20 June 2017.

The Arrangement covers various types of matrimonial and family civil judgments, including decrees absolute of divorce, decrees absolute of nullity, maintenance orders, custody orders etc. made by the HKSAR courts and judgments on divorce, invalidity of marriage, spousal maintenance, custody of a child etc. given by the Mainland courts. Please click here for the key features of the Arrangement.

In order to give effect to the Arrangement in Hong Kong, the Mainland Judgments in Matrimonial and Family Cases (Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement) Ordinance (Cap. 639) was enacted. Please click here for the text of the Ordinance. For details on the main provisions of the Ordinance, please click here.

The relevant court rules, which complement the operation of the Ordinance, as well as a commencement notice, in which the Secretary for Justice appointed 15 February 2022 as the day on which the Ordinance comes into operation, have been tabled before the Legislative Council for negative vetting. In the Mainland, the Arrangement will be implemented by way of judicial interpretation to be promulgated by the Supreme People’s Court. The Arrangement and the Ordinance do not have any retrospective effect.

The Arrangement on Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters by the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was signed between the Supreme People’s Court and the HKSAR Government on 18 January 2019. It is the sixth arrangement with the Mainland on mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters and the third arrangement providing for recognition and enforcement of judgments between Hong Kong and the Mainland in civil and commercial matters. It seeks to establish a bilateral legal mechanism with greater clarity and certainty for recognition and enforcement of judgments in a wider range of civil and commercial matters between the two places.

The Arrangement applies to matters considered to be of a “civil and commercial” nature under both Hong Kong and Mainland law. Non-judicial proceedings and judicial proceedings relating to administrative or regulatory matters are excluded. The Arrangement covers both monetary and non-monetary relief. It also sets out jurisdictional grounds for the purpose of recognition and enforcement as well as grounds for refusal of recognition and enforcement. Please click here for the key features of the Arrangement.

The Arrangement will be implemented by local legislation in Hong Kong. It will take effect after both places have completed the necessary procedures to enable implementation and will apply to judgments made on or after the commencement date.

The Record of Meeting of the Supreme People’s Court and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on Mutual Recognition of and Assistance to Bankruptcy (Insolvency) Proceedings between the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was signed between the Supreme People's Court and the HKSAR Government on 14 May 2021.

The Record of Meeting establishes a framework for cooperation between the High Court of the HKSAR and the relevant People’s Courts in corporate insolvency and debt restructuring matters. In particular,

  1. a HKSAR liquidator or provisional liquidator may apply to the relevant Intermediate People’s Court at a pilot area in the Mainland designated by the Supreme People’s Court for recognition of and assistance to insolvency and debt restructuring proceedings in the HKSAR; and
  2. a Mainland bankruptcy administrator may apply to the High Court of the HKSAR for recognition of and assistance to Mainland bankruptcy proceedings.

In connection with the Record of Meeting, the Department of Justice has issued for general reference a practical guide setting out the key features of the procedures for an application to the HKSAR court for recognition and assistance.

Regarding the implementation of the Record of Meeting in the Mainland, the Supreme People's Court has promulgated a set of opinion which provides detailed guidance to the relevant Mainland courts on implementation of the Record of Meeting. In such opinion, the Shanghai Municipality, Xiamen Municipality in Fujian Province and the Shenzhen Municipality in Guangdong Province have been designated as pilot areas for the new cooperation framework.