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31 March 2017

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Progress of the Arbitration and Mediation Legislation (Third Party Funding) (Amendment) Bill 2016

            The Arbitration and Mediation Legislation (Third Party Funding) (Amendment) Bill 2016 was tabled in LegCo late last year.  This bill expressly clarifies that third party funding of arbitration and mediation is not prohibited by the common law doctrines of maintenance and champerty. It also provides for related measures and safeguards for funding arrangements, stipulating that a body authorized under the Arbitration Ordinance will issue a Code of Practice setting out the standards and practices with which third party funders would be expected to comply. Notably, a third party funder must maintain access to a minimum of HK$20 million of capital and have in place adequate procedures and practices for managing conflict of interest.

The Bills Committee (which I chair) has jointly proposed a committee stage amendment to remove an unduly wide restriction prohibiting legal practitioners from providing arbitration funding services directly or indirectly, which has received across-the-board support from LegCo members. I believe that it is acceptable for the legal profession to participate in arbitration funding arrangements as arbitration is of a different nature from litigation, and there will be appropriate safeguards as long as law firms maintain sufficient capital access and proper measures to avoid conflict of interest. This is also in par with international standards such as the United Kingdom and the United States. There is keen competition in the international arbitration arena and it is important for Hong Kong to stay competitive with updated laws. It is expected that the Bill shall be voted on in May 2017.

Problems with new e-Legislation Website

Despite the goodwill of the Department of Justice to launch a more convenient online platform for all to access legislations, the performance of the newly launched Hong Kong e-Legislation website has been less than satisfactory. Browsing particular chapters of legislations has been difficult, and legislations are not easily located through general search engines, creating practical problems for legal practitioners. To ensure high quality access to the law, I have written to the Department of Justice to give feedback on the e-Legislation website and I will continue to monitor the progress as the government make improvements to the website. Please click the links to view my letter (https://goo.gl/oEnYSC) and the Department of Justice’s response (https://goo.gl/jclC0G).

Judiciary Developments

As you may know, there have been some hostile comments directed against the courts and specific members of the Judiciary who presided over certain cases, and such actions are deeply worrying. Being a developed jurisdiction and civilized society, judges should be able to decide cases free from fear and interference in Hong Kong. I have written to the Judiciary Administrator to inquire as to whether any measures to protect the personal safety of judicial officers have been put in place, and as Deputy Chairman of the AJLS Panel, I will ensure that any assistance required will be rendered to the Judiciary.

On the other hand, I am delighted to note that there has been an enhancement in judges’ pay packages last December, marking a significant step forward in improving the judges’ service conditions. The pay rise for CFI judges has already been approved by the AJLS Panel, and I will continue to fight for additional resources for the Judiciary in LegCo as I have done in the past few years. The raising of the retirement age for judges is another item which we are looking at.

Future Friday Tea Gathering

There will be a Friday Tea Gathering on 21 April 2017. Ms. Patricia Ho from Daly Associates will talk about the development of human trafficking and forced labour laws in Hong Kong. Please click here for further details and registration.

Kind regards,

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Dennis Kwok