2019 brought with it a number of important legal developments in Hong Kong and this article summarises some of the more important ones.
Arrangement for reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments between Hong Kong and Mainland China: On 18 January 2019, the Hong Kong Government signed an arrangement between Hong Kong and the Mainland for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. The Arrangement will come into effect once both Hong Kong and the Mainland have completed the necessary procedures to enable implementation and will apply to judgments made on or after the commencement date.
Hong Kong Companies Court recognises Japanese winding up for the first time: On 25 March 2019, in re Karoru Takamatsu (in which Deacons acted for the Applicant), the Court granted an order recognising a Japanese liquidation and providing assistance to the Japanese trustee in bankruptcy. This is the first ever application for recognition by a trustee in bankruptcy appointed in Japan over a Japanese incorporated company.
Landmark ruling regarding charge of obtaining access to a computer for criminal or dishonest gain: On 4 April 2019, the Court of Final Appeal ruled that the charge of obtaining access to a computer for criminal or dishonest gain for oneself or another person under s.161(1)(c) of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap 200) does not apply to the use by a person of his or her own computer, including a smartphone.
Competition Tribunal issues its first judgments: On 17 May 2019, the Competition Tribunal gave its first two judgments.
Court of Appeal comments on the interface between arbitration clauses and winding up petitions: In Lasmos Ltd v Southwest Pacific Bauxite (HK) Ltd  HKCFI, 426, the Court made a landmark decision holding that where a creditor presents a winding up petition, based on a disputed debt which is covered by an arbitration agreement between the creditor and company and the company takes the steps required under the arbitration clause to commence the contractually mandated dispute resolution process, the Court will generally dismiss the petition. In But Ka Chon v Intercative Brokers LLC (CACV 611/2018), the Court of Appeal made important obiter observations about Lasmos.
Hong Kong-Mainland interim relief arrangement in aid of arbitration: On 1 October 2019, the Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance in Court-Ordered Interim Measures in Aid of Arbitral Proceedings by the Courts of the Mainland and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region came into effect. Hong Kong is the first and only jurisdiction which has such an arrangement with Mainland China. Parties to arbitration in Hong Kong are now able to apply to the Mainland courts for interim relief for the purpose of property preservation, evidence preservation and conduct preservation (an order requiring a certain action be taken or restrained). The Arrangement also confirms the right of a party to arbitral proceedings in Mainland China to apply to the Hong Kong Courts for interim measures (measures that are already available under Hong Kong’s Arbitration Ordinance (Cap 609).
CFA’s landmark decision for money laundering offence: On 5 December 2019, the Court of Final Appeal in HKSAR v Harjani Haresh Murlidhar, clarified and reformulated the test for determining if a person has “reasonable grounds to believe” that property represents the proceeds of an indictable offence.
Court Proceedings (Electronic Technology) Bill: The Bill was gazetted on 27 December 2019 and provides for the use of electronic technology in court proceedings and for court-related purposes.