A Guide to Hong Kong Courts
A Guide to Hong Kong CourtsUpdated on Thursday 02nd September 2021
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Hong Kong's legal system is different from that in Mainland China because the city is a Special Administrative Region. The separation of the two legal systems is guaranteed constitutionally.
The legal system in Hong Kong is based on that used in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. The Judiciary in Hong Kong enforces the administration of justice in the Special Administrative Region and is independent of the executive and legislative branches of the Government. Hong Kong is an international business hub and because Chinese and English are both official languages, a bilingual court system was arranged according to the provisions of Basic Law.
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The structure of the Hong Kong courts
The Court of Final Appeal is the highest appellate court in Hong Kong. It hears civil and criminal matters from the High Court which consists of the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance.
The Court of Appeal in Hong Kong hears appeals from the Court of First Instance and the District Court and appeals from the Lands Tribunal. The Court of First Instance in Hong Kong has jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters. Approximately 42 Judges and Deputy Judges activate within the Court of First Instance.
The District court also has jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters, but it is only limited. It hears monetary claims of up to 1 million HK $ and criminal cases, except for serious ones like murder cases. The Magistrate’s Court in Hong Kong has jurisdiction in criminal matters covering a large number of offenses. The Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over charges against children under 14 years of age and young individuals, aged between 14 and 16.
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Special courts and tribunals
Apart from the civil and criminal courts in Hong Kong, a number of special courts and tribunals deal with specific matters. They include the Coroner’s Court, the Lands Tribunal, the Labor Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal, and the Obscene Articles Tribunal.
The Magistrate’s Courts in Hong Kong are in Kowloon City, in Eastern, the Kwun Tong, West Kowloon, Sha Tin, Fanling and Tue Mun. Those plaintiffs who are not satisfied with the judgment issued by the Magistrate can appeal to the Hong Kong Court of First Instance. This can be done within fourteen days following the date when the Magistrate issued the decision. If the plaintiff decides to do so, a notice of appeal is to be filed with the First Clerk of the Magistrate’s Courts.
Most litigation cases in Hong Kong concerning business owners will fall under a civil jurisdiction. These include cases that concern bankruptcy, tort, the closure of a business/winding up, intellectual property issues or breach of contract. In order to start legal action, the plaintiff will have to commence a civil action with the Court of First Instance by means of a writ of summons. Individuals may choose to start the action on their own but it is common to seek the help of a lawyer who specializes in business law. One of our lawyers in Hong Kong can help you take the necessary steps for court litigation. Alternatively, one of our attorneys may recommend that you solve your case through arbitration, especially if the claim is smaller.
For more information about the court system in Hong Kong and if you want to file a lawsuit, please contact our Hong Kong lawyers.
We provide complete legal assistance and representation for all individuals, foreign nationals, those who have acquired residency in Hong Kong as well as citizens.