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Introduction to Hong Kong Law Research: Using Secondary Resources

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


Secondary sources analyze, describe, discuss and/or comment upon the law; they synthesize the law for you and place it in an analytical context. Using secondary resources first can not only help you gain a quick overview of your research topic, but also help you locate key primary sources of law. 



Treatise is one of the most important type of  secondary resources. They are generally referred by librarians as scholarly works written by legal experts that provide in-depth analysis and critical commentary on different subjects. You may find treatises by searching MLaw Catalog by keyword or subject. For example, if you are trying to find books on family law of HKSAR, you can search by keywords: family law hongkong or by subject: Domestic Relations -- China -- Hong Kong .

Important factors to keep in mind when it comes to select/evaluate a treatise for your research purpose:

  • Keep your research goal in mind all the time
  • Understand the nature of treatises: scholarly v. practitioner-oriented; analytical v. descriptive
  • Dates of publication 
  • Content of the treatises: Comprehensive or narrowly focused
  • Reputation of Author and publisher
  • Quality of the work: references, reasoning and arguments
  • Format: multi-volumes v. single volume; multi-editions v. single edition

The most popular and comreprehensive encyclopedic statement on Hong Kong Law would be the Halsbury Laws of Hong Kong (1995-). It is a commercial looseleaf service published by Butterworth, which contains statements of Hong Kong law on over 80 subjects with extensive references to primary laws of Hong Kong.

Law Review, Journal Articles and NewsLetters

Law review, journal articles and newsletters are important secondary resources too. They are usually much shorter, narrowly-focused, and more current than treatises. There are generally four types of periodical publications:

 There are three major ways to locate relevant articles related to Hong Kong Law

  • Search in a full text journal database: such as Lexis, Westlaw, HeinOnline and ChinaLawInfo. You can access these databases through MLaw Library E-resources Page by typing in the resource name. In addition, Hong Kong University has made available a full text online journal database that includes some law journals such as Hong Kong Lawyer and Law Lectures for Practitioners.
  • You may also search in an online legal journal index database: such as Index to Legal Periodicals, Legal Trac and Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals. The coverage of legal indexes tends to be more comprehensive, but you may not be able to find full text articles directly in the legal indexes databases. 
  • Browse or search by individual journal periodical publications: you can search by keyword or subject. Suggested subject headings: Law -- China -- Hong Kong -- Periodicals; Law-- Asia -- Periodicals; Law -- Oceania -- Periodicals; and Law -- Australiasia -- Periodicals. 

Factors to evaluate/select a journal article remains largely the same as the factors you should consider for selecting treatises. See above under Treatises.

LooseLeaf Services

Looseleaf service is another popular type of publication for legal research especially in the areas that are heavily regulated and involve many types of primary sources of law such as tax. It is popular because it brings together both primary and secondary resources in one place with cross-references, which allows you to gain better understanding of relevant primary law sections without searching in multiple places and secondly, it is generally more frequently updated with weekly or monthly updates. Please note that since superseded pages are replaced by current pages, looseleaf services may not be good for historical research. The two main looseleaf services in Hong Kong law that we have are:

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