Hong Kong’s modern legal framework, well-established legal system and independent judiciary are the ultimate success factors behind the city’s position as a leading international arbitration service centre in the Asia Pacific region. Under the backdrop of numerous critical developments in arbitration law and practice in Hong Kong and booming cross-border arbitration activities between the Greater Bay Area (“GBA”) and Hong Kong, Winnie Tam SC and HKIAC Co-chairman Rimsky Yuen SC shared their insight at a webinar co-organized by LexisNexis and HKIAC on 6 July, attracting over 360 participants joining online.
Winnie started her sharing by addressing the opportunities that arose from mainland parties’ developed awareness of international arbitration as a preferred means of commercial dispute resolution, particularly in the areas of investment in businesses on the Chinese mainland, shareholders disputes (investment through offshore companies), technology licensing and transfer in industries, construction, and infrastructure, as well as Hi-tech offshore disputes.
Besides, the special arrangements between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong have provided rules to facilitate the recognition and enforcement of cross-border arbitration awards and the interim measures obtainable through designated PRC courts.
In addition, Winnie pointed out the increasing trend toward internationalism for the Mainland arbitration institutions and law firms, which could be observed from the multi-lingual and multi-nationalities background of arbitrators and arbitration counsels. The Red Circle firms have also risen in their practice in international arbitration with a number of legal practitioners with international perspectives joining the field.
With the first batch of Hong Kong and Macau legal practitioners with dual legal qualifications (Hong Kong – GBA/ Macau – GBA), these legal professionals may practice in civil and commercial matters in the nine cities within GBA, which indicates another breakthrough for the cross-border arbitration in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau.
Nevertheless, the cultural disparity between the mainland and international arbitrations, discrepancies in the handling of witness testimony and document production, as well as the fee structures, would still be the main challenges faced by legal practitioners when tapping into a new market.
Winnie then talked about the Independence and Impartiality of Arbitrators by explaining the duty of disclosure and the “traffic light” system of IBA Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest and quoted a few cases as examples. Finally, in the aspect of Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitration Awards in the PRC Courts, Winnie shared about the existing arbitration laws and the latest developments.
Mr Rimsky Yuen SC, on the other hand, updated the audience about the international development in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) for cross-border arbitration under the Covid-19 outbreak, and guidelines issued by various arbitration institutions to assist the parties to conduct arbitration via remote hearings. He also shared the latest development in Third-Party Funding.
Mr. Yuen was also glad to share that Hong Kong being the only arbitration venue outside the mainland where parties to arbitration may obtain interim relief in support of arbitration proceedings from Mainland courts in respect of assets, evidence and conduct obtaining interim measures from Mainland courts. Announced on 5 July 2022, HKIAC was included as one of the arbitration institutions in the “one-stop” diversified international commercial dispute resolution mechanism of the China International Commercial Court (“CICC”) of the SPC and being the first arbitration institution outside the mainland to be included in this platform.
The audience were enthusiastic to interact with the guest speakers during the Q&A session.