Common law and the rules of equity are to be found primarily in the judgments of the superior courts in the HKSAR and other common law jurisdictions. In historical terms, reports of judgments handed down by judges have, since at least the 15th century, established in detail the legal principles regulating the relationship between state and citizen, and between citizen and citizen. There are now some hundreds of thousands of reported cases in common law jurisdictions which comprise the common law. The rights relating to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom from arbitrary arrest or imprisonment have been spelt out in cases which were decided more than three centuries ago. As we have seen, these have now been underpinned by provisions in the Basic Law.
The common law's most distinguishing hallmark is reliance on a system of case precedent, not restricted to judicial decisions generated within any single jurisdiction, but case law from all jurisdictions throughout the common law world. Article 84 of the Basic Law provides that the courts of the HKSAR may refer to the precedents of other common law jurisdictions. In addition, the Court of Final Appeal of the HKSAR may as required invite judges from other common law jurisdictions to participate in the judicial processes.
For notable recent judicial decisions involving the Government of the HKSAR, see: Notable Judicial Decisions involving the Government. For Hong Kong judicial decisions more generally, see: the Judiciary’s Judgments & Legal Reference.
Over 260 international treaties and agreements have been applied to Hong Kong. A treaty does not constitute part of Hong Kong's domestic law until given effect by legislation. Nonetheless, it may affect the development of the common law. It may, for example, be resorted to by a court as an aid to interpretation.