External Affairs


International Law Division
Department of Justice

Introduction

Article 13 of the Basic Law stipulates that the Central People's Government is responsible for foreign affairs relating to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Hong Kong SAR) but it authorises the Hong Kong SAR to conduct the relevant external affairs in accordance with the Basic Law. The handling of external affairs of the Hong Kong SAR is elaborated upon in other Basic Law provisions in various chapters, in particular, Chapter VII "External Affairs".

In Chapter VII, Article 151 of the Basic Law provides that the Hong Kong SAR, using the name "Hong Kong, China" may maintain and develop relations and conclude and implement agreements on its own, with foreign states and regions and international organisations, in such matters as economic affairs, trade, finance and monetary affairs, shipping, communications, tourism, culture and sports. Under Article 152(2), the Hong Kong SAR may, using the name "Hong Kong, China", participate in international organisations and conferences not limited to states.

Article 152 of the Basic Law also provides for representatives of the Government of the Hong Kong SAR to participate in international organisations or conferences in appropriate fields limited to states and affecting the Region as members of delegations of the People's Republic of China, or in other appropriate capacity. The Central People's Government shall take the necessary steps to ensure that the Hong Kong SAR shall continue to retain its status in appropriate capacity in those international organisations of which China is a member and in which the Hong Kong SAR participates in one capacity or another.

There are other provisions of the Basic Law, apart from those referred to above, that have a bearing on the HKSAR's external affairs. For example, Article 116 confirms the HKSAR's status as a separate customs territory, and provides for its participation in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now the World Trade Organisation) and other international trade agreements. Article 96 provides for the HKSAR to make arrangements with foreign states for cooperation in legal and judicial matters. And Article 133 deals with the negotiation and conclusion of air services agreements.

The International Law Division of the Department of Justice plays an important role in relation to Hong Kong's involvement in these matters. Please refer to the following link for details of the work of the Division -

International Law Division


Agreements and Arrangements for establishment/maintenance of offices or operation of International Organisations in Hong Kong

From 1997 onwards, the Central People's Government in consultation with the Hong Kong SAR Government has entered into agreements and arrangements for establishment/maintenance of offices or operation of international organisations in Hong Kong with several international organisations regarding the establishment/maintenance of their offices or their operation in Hong Kong and conferring certain privileges and immunities on them. The international organisations are : the Commission of the European Communities, the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation, the Hague Conference on Private International Law and Permanent Court of Arbitration. These agreements and arrangements (including some administrative arrangements made by the Hong Kong SAR) are now provided on our Hong Kong e-Legislation (HKeL) website for ease of reference.

Please find below lists of organizations in which the HKSAR participates -

International organisations limited to States

International organisations not limited to States

On the legal front, the Council on General Affairs and Policy of the Hague Conference on Private International Law has endorsed at its meeting from 17-20 April 2012 the establishment of an Asia Pacific Regional Office in the Hong Kong SAR. The Regional Office was officially open on 13 December 2012. The Hong Kong SAR currently applies eight conventions on private international law which were negotiated under the Hague Conference and the Department has established an excellent working relationship with the Conference through active participation in its meetings as member of the Chinese delegation over the years.


Treaties

This website provides a list of all the treaties that are in force and are applicable to the Hong Kong SAR. Most of the treaties on our list applied to Hong Kong prior to 1 July 1997 (the date of Hong Kong's reunification with the Mainland) and continue to apply from that date. Some of the treaties were applied to the Hong Kong SAR on or after 1 July 1997. Under Article 153, the views of the Hong Kong SAR Government have to be sought before international agreements to which China is a party (or becomes a party) are extended to Hong Kong. Our list also identifies a number of treaties that do not apply to the Mainland of China but are applicable to the Hong Kong SAR.

For ease of reference, the treaties on our list are arranged into 20 categories by subject. Where applicable, we have developed hyperlinks to external websites containing the texts of those treaties.

Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

For some of these treaties, specific government officials or departments are designated as the authority to discharge the relevant functions thereunder. One case relevant to the Department of Justice is the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction ("the Convention"). The Convention focuses on protecting children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention and establishes civil procedures to ensure their prompt return to the places of their habitual residence. The Child Abduction and Custody Ordinance (Cap. 512) was enacted to implement the Convention in the Hong Kong SAR in 1997. The Secretary for Justice is designated as the Central Authority of the Hong Kong SAR of the People's Republic of China to discharge the relevant functions under the Convention. The International Law Division of the Department of Justice has been authorized to act on behalf of the Secretary for Justice in providing international assistance in the return of abducted children and exercise of rights of access to children. Details regarding the Convention and the operation regime mentioned above are available from this link.


Bilateral Agreements

This website also provides a list and the full text of the major bilateral international agreements of the Hong Kong SAR which have come into force. They include: Air Services Agreements(ASAs), Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements/Investment Agreements(IPPAs), Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements(MLAs), Surrender of Fugitive Offenders Agreements(SFOs), Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreements(TSPs), Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements(DTAs), Exchange of Information Relating to Taxes Agreements(TIEAs),Free Trade Agreements(FTAs), Enviroment Cooperation Agreements(ECAs); Memorandum of Understandings on Labour Cooperation(MOUs on Labour Cooperation) and Agreements on Agriculture.

A notional distinction may be drawn between -
(a) ASAs, IPPAs, TSPs, FTAs, ECAs, MOUs on Labour Cooperation and Agreements on Agriculture; and
(b) MLAs, SFOs, DTAs and TIEAs.
In the case of the agreements under (b), they are required to be scheduled to Orders made by the Chief Executive in Council, in accordance with the relevant Ordinances, and will therefore appear in the Hong Kong e-Legislation (HKeL) as legislation. In the case of the agreements under (a), there is no legislative implementation, and the practice is to gazette them when they are brought into force by the two governments.

Apart from the above agreements, visa abolition arrangements and agreements have been concluded with over 100 countries and territories, 10 of which were concluded by the Hong Kong SAR. The Hong Kong SAR has also concluded an Agreement on Co-operation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters with the European Communitypdf file formatand an Agreement on Co-operation in Information Technology and Communications with Israelpdf file format. [As amended by Exchange of Notes (Note from the State of Israelpdf file format) (Reply Note to the State of Israelpdf file format)

Consular Agreements

The Central People's Government conclude agreements with a number of foreign governments, namely Australia, Cambodia, Canada, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Philippines, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States of Amercia and Vietnam concerning the functions, privileges and immunities of the latter's consular missions in the Hong Kong SAR. These agreements have been gazetted and are also provided on this website for information.

Please also see below for information on consular posts established in Hong Kong -

Consular Posts and Officially Recognised Representatives in Hong Kong

Other activities of the Department of Justice beyond the domestic dimension

We have been making continuous efforts to enhance the competitiveness of Hong Kong as a regional centre for legal services, providing world class legal services in Hong Kong to clients all over the world. In addition, the Department has been making vigorous efforts to promote Hong Kong as a regional centre for international arbitration in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2014, the Department will pursue a number of new initiatives, which include: (1) the launch of a consultancy study on the development of arbitration in Hong Kong and the challenges and opportunities that Hong Kong faces as a regional centre for international arbitration in the Asia-Pacific region; (2) enhancing the promotion of legal and dispute resolution services of Hong Kong in emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific region; (3) the establishment of an advisory committee to advise on the development and promotion of Hong Kong as an international arbitration centre in the Asia-Pacific region. Through these initiatives, we will continue to work with the arbitration community to boost Hong Kong's status as a leading arbitration centre of the Asia-Pacific.

Please also see below information on the link of the Department of Justice with other jurisdictions -

The Department's links with other jurisdictions

Important Notice

The information provided on this website is for convenience of reference only. While every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate and updated information, we do not warrant that the information shown on this website or on external websites is error-free. In particular, the compilation of our list of treaties with hyperlinks is based on information collected from various sources. Such hyperlinks to external websites do not in any way imply endorsement by the Hong Kong SAR Government or the Department of Justice. No warranty is made and no responsibility assumed as to the accuracy, authority, completeness, recentness or applicability to the Hong Kong SAR of the texts of treaties posted on external websites. Users should ascertain those facts and should check for any reservation or declaration which applies to the Hong Kong SAR. Where appropriate, they should contact the depositary of the relevant instrument to obtain complete official information. They should also read and comply with any notice, warning, disclaimer, copyright statement and restriction on use or distribution of materials posted on the external websites. For bilateral agreements, readers should, where appropriate, consult the Government Gazette for the text. Further inquiries on the application of treaties or bilateral agreements to the Hong Kong SAR may be made to the International Law Division of the Department of Justice at ild@doj.gov.hk.

Note :

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