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Introduction to Hong Kong Law Research: Locating Primary Sources

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

Guide Outline

Home

  • 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 

Citing

  • Citation Manuals

Constitution and Local Legislation

Under Basic Law Article 18, Hong Kong legal system is a common law system. The primary law sources include Constitution, Basic Law, Case Law, HK legislation as well as Chinese customary law and international treaties and agreements that Hong Kong is a party.

PRC Constitution: Full text of the repealed and current Constitutions of People's Republic of China in English and Chinese is available at Hein's World Constitutions Illustrated along with a collection of annotations, commentaries, articles and monographs.

Hong Kong Basic Law: Bilingual Website sponsored by the Hong Kong government that includes full text of the Basic Law along with government documents, publications and other materials related to the Basic Law. Basic Law Bulletin, jointly published a several Hong Kong government agencies, provides "recent Basic Law court cases and decisions of the LegCo President on Members' bills under Rule 51(3) and (4) of the LegCo Rules of Procedure. It also introduces key provisions and concepts of the Basic Law" For drafting history of Basic Law of HKSAR, see here.

HK Legislation The Laws of Hong Kong (1913-) is generally considered as the most authoritative official compilation of Hong Kong ordinances. It is also available online at Lexis (HKLAWS) (1999-), updated biweekly. Hong Kong government maintains a comprehensive legal information database, Bilingual Legal Information Systems, that contains HKSAR ordinances and subsidary legislations in full text (1997-). For historical Hong Kong Laws online going back to 1890, see here.

For historical legislative history research, please consult Hong Kong Government Reports Online, a digital project that provides free access to full text of four major HK governmental publications (Administrative Report, Hong Kong Sessional Papers, Hong Kong Hansard and Hong Kong Government Gazette) from 1842-1941. Hong Kong Hansard (2008-) is available online at Hong Kong Legislative Council Website. The Legislative Council Website also makes Bills (2000-), Subsidary Legislation (2000-), Legislative Proposals (2000-), Policy Issue Papers, Research Reports, Annual Reports along with other records of Legislation available online in full text bilingual.  

  

Case Law

Under Basic Law Article 18, Hong Kong legal system is a common law system. The primary law sources include Constitution, Basic Law, Case Law, HK legislation as well as Chinese customary law and international treaties and agreements that Hong Kong is a party.

Case Law: Law reporting is an essential part of the common law system. The first systematic law reports in Hong Kong was the Hong Kong Law Reports created in 1905. Before that, cases were selectively reported in English-language newspapers such as China Mail. Hong Kong case reporting follows British's selective case reporting model, as opposed to US' comprehensive case reporting model. Hong Kong Law Reports contains important decisions of Hong Kong Supreme Court and that of district courts in its supplements, Hong Kong District Reports and Hong Kong Criminal Law Reports. The Reports was later incorporated with Hong Kong Law Digests to become the current The Authorized Hong Kong Law Reports and Digests (1997-). This publication was first published by a private publisher in 1996, Pearson Professional, the local operation of which was later taken over by Sweet & Maxwell.  Other specialized law reports of Hong Kong Cases include: Hong Kong Public Law reports (1991-)and the Authorized Hong Kong Court of Final Appeals Reports (1997-). Please also note that article 84 of the Basic Law allows courts in Hong Kong to refer to cases decided in other common law jurisdictions. A 2010 article in Hong Kong Lawyer has a good discussion on the status of English authorities in Hong Kong courts post-1997.

Electronic Database: Hong Kong Department of Justice has established and maintained a judgment database that includes full text of selective decisions in English and Chinese covering 1946-48 and 1966 and beyond. Hong Kong Legal Information Institute also makes decisions of many courts in Hong Kong available online in full text. Coverage varies. Westlaw contains full text of published Hong Kong Cases and case law summary documents from 1905 (HK-CS-ALL). Lexis contains full text of Hong Kong Cases from 1947; Hong Kong Unreported Judgements from 1986; Hong Kong Public Law Reports from April, 1994 through November, 2006 (HKALL)

Updating cases: Right now, you are still not able to use Lexis' Shepards or West's Keycite to update Hong Kong cases. However, you may be able to keep track of a case of what happens after it is issued by searching the case law database using the case name or case citation as a keyword.

 

Chinese Custom and Customary Law

Under Basic Law Article 18, Hong Kong legal system is a common law system. The primary law sources include Constitution, Basic Law, Case Law, HK legislation as well as Chinese customary law and international treaties and agreements that Hong Kong is a party.

Chinese Customary Law: Although Article 8 of Basic Law clearly states that any Chinese Customary Law that was previously in force in Hong Kong pre-1997 is still in effect as long as it "except for any that contravene this Law, and subject to any amendment by the legislature of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" (Article 8 of BL) The Customary Law, in practice, bears minimum impact on Hong Kong Law and mostly appears in the area of family law. See Wesley-Smith, Peter, An Introduction to the Hong Kong Legal System 50-53 (3rd ed. 1998).

 

International Agreements

Under Basic Law Article 18, Hong Kong legal system is a common law system. The primary law sources include Constitution, Basic Law, Case Law, HK legislation as well as Chinese customary law and international treaties and agreements that Hong Kong is a party.

International Agreements and Treaties: Hong Kong SAR government is authorized to conduct relevant external affairs (对外事务)under the Basic Law, although the central government of the NPC is ultimately reponsible for foreign affairs (外交事务)of HKSAR. (See BL Article 13) Department of Justice of HKSAR compiles a list of treaties that are in force and applicable to Hong Kong SAR.On the same website, it also provides a list of "Arrangements with the Mainland and the MACAO SAR". Under Basic Law Article 116, Hong Kong SAR is authorized to "participate in relevant international organizations and international trade agreements." (see BL Article 116) Hong Kong SAR Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau has compiled a list of international organizations that HKSAR participate in.

 

Search Commercial Databases

There are four major commercial online services that we currently subscribe to for Hong Kong Law Research.

  • Lexis: provides a good coverage of primary laws and secondary resources for Hong Kong Law Research.
  • Westlaw:  contains a good coverage of primary laws and secondary resources for Hong Kong Law Research
  • LawInfoChina: provides full text of some Hong Kong ordinances in both Chinese and English. 
  • ISinoLaw: contains full text of some Hong Kong ordinances in both Chinese and English.

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