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Hong Kong Business Services, Legal System

Hong Kong Legal

After 150 years of British influence it will come as no surprise that the legal system is based on English common law. On July 1st 1997 Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of China. Subsequently under the “one country, two systems” formula, Hong Kong will have a high degree of autonomy for the next fifty years. Hong Kong has both solicitors and barristers. Solicitors have limited rights of audience to the court system and barristers have unlimited. The Law Society and Bar Association regulate both respectively.

The Courts

In Hong Kong the structure is broadly, the Court of Final Appeal, High Court, Court of First Instance, District Court including Family Court, Magistrates Court and others not relevant to this site. English or Chinese can be used during the proceedings, when giving evidence you have the right to choose what language you use as the court will provide interpreters.

Court of First Instance

In criminal and civil cases this court has unlimited jurisdiction. Civil cases for example, but not limited too could be bankruptcy, company liquidation and divorce. The Court also hears appeals from the Magistrates Courts, Labour Tribunal, Small Claims Tribunal and others. In Hong Kong a jury normally consists of seven people. The jury will determine if the accused is guilty or not. The judge will be seeking a unanimous decision from the jury, but the jury may return a majority decision of five to two.

District Court

In criminal and civil cases the court has limited powers. It criminal cases it can try serious cases with some exceptions. For claims made under the Employees Compensation legislation and Inland Revenue Ordinance for tax recovery the court has exclusive control. Financial disputes from $50,000HKD up to $1,000,000HKD can also be heard. The court can impose a prison sentence of up to seven years, also exercises limited jurisdiction in hearing appeals from tribunals.

Magistrates Court

This court hears criminal cases that can be wide and varied in nature. Powers are limited, but with exceptions. Prison sentences of up to three years can be imposed and fines of $100,000HK.


These deal with specific areas, the hearings are informal and no legal representation is allowed.

Small Claims Tribunal

This tribunal hears monetary claims up to $50,000HKD and from experience do work.

Labour Tribunal

There role is to settle disputes between employers and employees. Handling claims for possible breaches of terms and conditions of employment. There could be any number of issues ranging from salary disputes, holiday pay, maternity pay, payments in lieu, severance or termination of service, bonus payments, unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal are some examples.


There are other tribunals, courts, boards, commissions, access to legal aid within the legal framework in Hong Kong. The information provided on this site is a brief overview of the more frequently used legal processes available. The information is for reference only and subject to change. Should you need the services of a legal representative, contact a solicitor.

Medium sized firms will offer a blend of western and Chinese experience to compliments clients needs. For business clients firms will offer services such as civil litigation, communications and technology, intellectual property, and insolvency. For private clients, tenancy and real estate issues, personal injury and medical negligence, divorce and criminal defence are some of the options available.

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