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Introduction to Hong Kong Law Research: Preparation

This guides provides a list of major sources of Hong Kong along with some research tips on researching Hong Kong Law

Guide Outline


  • Construct a Research Plan
  • A few words about language

Preparation: Consulting Legal Research Guides

  • Pathfinders & Guides
  • Hong Kong Legal System
  • Primary Sources of Hong Kong Law

Using Secondary Sources

  • Treatises
  • Law Review and Journal Articles 
  • Looseleaf Services

Locating Primary Sources

  • Constitution and Basic Law
  • Hong Kong Legislation
  • Case Law
  • Chinese Customary Law
  • International Agreements and Treaties

Other Useful Resources

  • Hong Kong Law Reform Commission
  • Hong Kong Legal Profession
  • Legal News and Blogs 


  • Citation Manuals

Find Pathfinders and Guides

It is imperative to spend time becoming familiar with the targeted area of law, especially if this is an area you have not researched before. A good research guide can help you glean valuable information of the relevant major publications for both primary and secondary resources, which will then help you set the general parameters/scope of your research at the very beginning. You may later expand or narrow the scope as you further your research. More specifically, for foreign law research, good research guides will help you gain better understanding of a particular jurisdiction's legal system, primary sources of law, and major players in the legal field. There are a few ways that you can find helpful Hong Kong Law Research guides:

First, you may find research guides on Hong Kong on many academic law libraries websites. For example,

Second, you may also do a keyword or subject search (e.g. Hong Kong--Legal Research) in MLaw Library Catalog to find Hong Kong Law Research Guides in print: e.g.


Hong Kong Legal History

British government gained control of Hong Kong as a colony back in 1800s under three treaties: Treaty of Nanking (1842), Treaty of Beijing (1860) and The Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory (1898). For details about historical background and analyses of these treaties, please see:

The control of British government of Hong Kong was interrupted by Japanese during the World War II for approximately 44 months. In 1984, the Chinese and British governments signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong (The Joint Declaration), under which the Chinese government will "resume the exercise of the sovereignty of Hong Kong with effect from 1 July 1997." The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was later adopted on April 4, 1990, according to which under the principle of 'one country, two systems', the legal system and lifestyle of Hong Kong Special Administrative Reigion (HKSAR) will remain unchanged for 50 years starting July 1st, 1997. For detailed background information about HongKong's reintegration to China, please see


Hong Kong Legal System

Sources of Law

Under the Article 18 of Basic Law of the HKSAR, the current Hong Kong legal system is based on common law supplemented with local legislation:

  • The Constitution of People's Republic of China
  • Basic Law of the HKSAR of the PRC: (Adopted by National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China on April 4, 1990) 
  • National Laws listed in Annex III of the Basic Law
  •  Common Law and Rules of Equity previously in force and not be in contravention of the Basic Law and have not been abrogated by the SAR legislatures
  •  HKSAR Legislation (Ordinances)

For more discussion of the sources of HKSAR law, please read

  • Wesley-Smith, Peter, An Introduction to the Hong Kong Legal System (3rd ed. 1998)
  • Wesley-Smith, Peter, The Sources of Hong Kong Law (1994) [We do not hold this item in our law library, but you can always ILL it through your home library]

Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branch of HKSAR

  • HKSAR is vested legislative power under the Basic Law and Legislative Council is the legislature of HongKong. Among other powers vested, Legislative Council enacts, amends or repeals laws in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and legal procedures under Article 73 of the Basic Law. For a detailed description of how laws are made in Hong Kong, see here.
  • Chief Executive is the head of HKSAR, who is directly accountable to the central government of the PRC. Chief executive is assisted by Executive Council in policy making. For HKSAR government structure flowchart, please see here.
  •  HKSAR Court of Final Appeal replaced the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council as the highest court of appeal for Hong Kong in 1997. National People's Congress Standing Committee is vested in the power for final intepretation of the Basic Law. For a detailed description of court structure of Hong Kong SAR, please see here.

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