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  • Writer's pictureErica So

A Change for the Better? New Enforcement Mechanism in Hong Kong and Mainland China

The Arrangement on Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (Reciprocal Enforcement) Ordinance (Cap. 645 of the Laws of Hong Kong) (“The Ordinance”) entered between the Mainland and Hong Kong will come into force on 29 January 2024. The Ordinance is a big step forward for cross-border legal cooperation. It makes it easier and faster to recognize and enforce court judgments on civil and commercial matters between the two jurisdictions. This helps cross-border parties to do business with more confidence and less administrative hurdles, saving them time and money.



Author: Erica So, Paralegal (Pending Admission)



(向下滾動查看中文版本)


Three Key Provisions under the Ordinance

The reciprocal enforcement agreement encompasses several important provisions that lay the foundation for effective co-operation between the Mainland and Hong Kong.


Key Provision #1: Removal of the Exclusive Jurisdiction Requirement

One of the most significant changes of the Ordinance is the replacement of an exclusive jurisdiction requirement under the existing regime (i.e. the Mainland Judgements (Reciprocal Enforcement) Ordinance (Cap.597 of the Laws of Hong Kong) (“2008 Regime”). For instance as a creditor, as long as you show sufficient connection with the Mainland (i.e. that the relevant debt occurred in the Mainland or that the debtor resides in the Mainland), it would satisfy the Court that the judgment, once obtained, can be enforced in the Mainland.


Key Provision #2: Expanded Scope of Judgements

Under the 2008 Regime, only monetary judgements given by courts in the Mainland or in Hong Kong for commercial disputes would be recognised. With the Ordinance in place, both monetary and non-monetary judgments that are civil and commercial in nature, orders for compensation and damages arising from criminal proceedings, and certain intellectual property judgments would all be eligible for enforcement across the border.

 

It is nonetheless important to note that this expanded scope is subject to a list of exclusions as set out in the Ordinance. Judgements given in insolvency matters, debt restructuring process, bankruptcy proceedings, succession of estate and matrimonial applications, certain intellectual property cases, anti-suit injunctions and interim reliefs are not eligible for enforcement in the Mainland under the Ordinance. As for arbitration, it may also be worth mentioning that where such proceedings did not take place in the Mainland, or where the arbitral award was given by a court outside of the Mainland, such award would not be recognized or enforced.


Key Provision #3: Broadened Range of Acceptable Courts and Tribunals

Albeit with the above-mentioned limitations as to the type of judgments that can be enforced in the Mainland, it should be noted that the levels of Mainland courts whose judgments qualify for enforcement under the Ordinance, is no longer only limited to those that are specifically designated.

 

Judgments given by the Supreme People’s Court, the High People’s Courts or the Intermediate People’s Courts where such judgments are given at the second instance, as well as the High People’s Courts, the Intermediate People’s Courts or the Primary People’s Courts where (a) no appeals are allowed from such judgments, or (b) the time limit for appeals with respect to the judgments have expired according to the laws without any such appeals being filed, would now all be recognised in the Hong Kong courts.

 

Reciprocally, in addition to the Court of Final Appeal, Court of Appeal, Court of First Instance, District Court and Small Claim Tribunal, this new regime has expanded the eligible levels of Hong Kong courts for enforcement of judgments in the Mainland to include the Competition Tribunal, Lands Tribunal and Labour Tribunal.


A Brief Guide on How to Gain Recognition of Judgement

The following provides a concise guide on how to go about getting a judgement recognized in the other jurisdiction, specified from the Hong Kong or Mainland perspective respectively.


The process starts with registering the case, in the same way as under the 2008 Regime. To get a Mainland judgement recognized in Hong Kong, the process would be to apply for registration with the Court of First Instance, on an ex parte basis. If application passes, the judgement is recognized and thus enforceable in Hong Kong. However, there are some conditions:


  1. As The Ordinance is not in force prior to 29 January 2024, judgements given before this date are not eligible;

  2. As mentioned at Key Provision #2 above, the substance of the judgement must be deemed eligible under The Ordinance;

  3. The Mainland judgement must be valid and effective, confirmed through a certificate issued by the original Mainland court;

  4. Up until and at the time of application, the judgment debtor is required to have not met the obligations outlined in the judgment and this non-compliance must have occurred within a 2-year period before the application was made.


Other than a judgement not meeting the conditions above, The Hong Kong court can deny the application for registration (set aside) in rare cases, if for example:

  1. A judgment has been issued by a court in Hong Kong concerning the same dispute between the involved parties. Alternatively, a judgment on the same dispute may have been given by a court located outside of Hong Kong, provided that this judgment has already been acknowledged or implemented by a Hong Kong court;

  2. The judgment that has been officially recorded was either acquired through fraudulent means, or it has been overturned or annulled following an appeal or a retrial;

  3. A situation would occur that is “manifestly incompatible with the public policy of Hong Kong”, were the registered judgment to be enforced;

  4. In the initial legal proceedings, the defendant was either: (a) not formally called to appear in the original court on the Mainland, as per the Mainland’s law, or (b) even though they were summoned, they were not provided with a fair chance to present their arguments or defend themselves in the proceedings.

 

To get a Hong Kong judgement recognized in the Mainland, the process is quite the same, where the application to have a Hong Kong judgement recognized would take place at an Intermediate People’s Court.



Significant Reduction of Redundant Court Proceedings

It has often occurred that parties, after commencing an action in a different court beyond the jurisdiction, look for local services to litigate the same issue again in Hong Kong courts. With the Ordinance taking effect in a month’s time, these duplicated cross-border court proceedings involving the same cause of action and parties, could be significantly reduced, thereby bettering the utilisation of public resources for those in need in the territory.

 

The implementation of this new regime, which has been a point of discussion for years, would undoubtedly cement Hong Kong’s standing as a pre-eminent regional hub for dispute resolution and facilitate cross-border trade and investment in the long-run. As we seek to explain above, the rights of the contracting and/or litigating parties under our current judicial systems could be better guaranteed, and more importantly the amount of risks, costs and time that are usually associated with enforcement in our neighbouring jurisdiction could be lowered to a significant extent, which is believed to be a relief for creditors suffering from the mounting debt burdens under this global financial climate.



 

向好的方向改變?香港與中國內地的新執行機制

 

內地與香港訂立的《關於內地與香港特別行政區法院相互認可和執行當事人協議管轄的民商事案件判決的安排(相互強制執行)條例》(香港法例第645章)(《條例》)將於2024年1月29日生效。 該條例是跨境法律合作的一大進步。 它使兩個司法管轄區之間的民商事判決的承認和執行變得更加容易和快捷。 這有助於跨境各方更有信心地開展業務,減少行政障礙,節省時間和金錢。

 

《條例》的三項主要規定

 

相互執行協定包括幾項重要條款,為內地與香港的有效合作奠定基礎。

 

1.            撤銷專屬管轄權的規定

 

《條例》其中一項最重要的改變,是取代現行制度(即《內地判決(相互強制執行)條例》(香港法例第 597 章)("2008 年制度"))下的專屬司法管轄權規定。 舉例來說,債權人只要證明與內地有足夠的聯繫(即有關債務在內地發生或債務人在內地居住),便可令法院信納有關判決一旦取得,便可在內地執行。

 

2.            擴大判決範圍

 

在 2008 年制度下,只有內地或香港法院就商業糾紛作出的金錢判 決才會獲得承認。 條例》實施后,民事和商事性質的金錢和非金錢判決、刑事訴訟中的賠償和損害賠償命令,以及某些知識產權判決均可跨境執行。

 

但必須注意的是,這一擴大的範圍受到《條例》中列出的一系列除外情況的限制。 根據《條例》,在破產事宜、債務重組程序、破產訴訟、遺產繼承和婚姻申請、某些知識產權案件、禁止訴訟令和臨時濟助中作出的判決,均不符合在內地強制執行的資格。 至於仲裁,值得一提的是,如仲裁程序並非在內地進行,或仲裁裁決是由內地 以外的法院作出,有關裁決不會獲得承認或執行。

 

3.            擴大可接受的法院和法庭的範圍

 

儘管受到了在內地可執行判決的類型的限制,但需要注意的是,根據《條例》,符合條件的內地法院判決的範圍不再僅限於專門指定的法院。

 

 最高人民法院、高級人民法院或中級人民法院作出的二審判決,以及高級人民法院、中級人民法院或基層人民法院作出的(a)不允許對判決提出上訴,或(b)對判決提出上訴的期限已依法屆滿但未提出上訴的判決,現在均可在香港法院得到承認。

 

對等而言,除了終審法院、上訴法庭、原訟法庭、區域法院和小額錢債審裁處外,這套新制度擴大了香港法院在內地執行判決的合資格級別,包括競爭事務審裁處、土地審裁處和勞資審裁處。

 


訴訟程序簡要指南


下文分別從香港或內地的角度,簡要介紹了如何使判決在另一司法管轄區獲得承認。

程序始於登記案件,與 2008 年制度下的方式相同。 要使內地判決在香港獲得承認,需要以單方申請的形式向原訟法庭提出登記申請。 如果申請獲得通過,判決就會得到承認,從而可以在香港執行。 但也有一些條件需要滿足:

1. 由於該條例在 2024 年 1 月 29 日之前尚未生效,因此在此日期之前作出的判決不符合條件;

2.  如上文關鍵條款 #2 所述,判決的實質內容必須被視為符合《條例》的規定;

3.  內地判決必須有效,並經原來的內地法院發出證明書確認;

4.  直至及在申請時,判決債務人須未履行判決中列出的義務,且未履行義務的情況須發生在提出申請前的兩年內。

 

除不符合上述條件的判決外,香港法院在極少數情況下可拒絕登記(撤銷)申請,例如:

1. 香港法院已就當事人之間的同一爭議作出判決。 或者,香港以外的法院已就同一爭議作出判決,但該判決已得到香港法院的承認或執行;

2.  已正式記錄在案的判決是通過欺詐手段獲得的,或者是在上訴或重審后被推翻或撤銷的;

3. 如果執行已登記的判決,將會出現 「明顯不符合香港公共政策 」的情況;

4. 在最初的法律程序中,被告:(a) 沒有按照內地法律被正式傳喚到內地原法院出庭,或 (b) 即使被傳喚,也沒有獲得公平的機會在訴訟程序中陳述論點或為自己辯護。

 

要使香港判決在內地得到承認,程序是相同的,即向中級人民法院申請承認香港判決。


大幅減少冗餘的法院訴訟程序

 

經常發生的情況是,當事人在司法管轄區以外的不同法院提起訴訟后,尋求本地服務,在香港法院就同一問題再次提起訴訟。 隨著《條例》在一個月後生效,這些涉及相同訴因和當事人的重複跨境法律程序可大幅減少,從而更善用公共資源,為本港有需要的人士提供服務。

 

長遠來說,實施這個已討論多年的新制度,無疑可鞏固香港作為區內卓越的爭議解決中心的地位,並促進跨境貿易和投資。 正如上文所述,在現行的司法制度下,締約及/或訴訟各方的權利可獲得更佳的保障,而更重要的是,在鄰近司法管轄區執行相關的風險、成本和時間將會大幅降低,相信這對在全球金融環境下承受日益沉重的債務負擔的債權人來說,是一項紓解民困的措施。



 


Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.


For specific advice about your situation, please contact:



Erica So


Erica So

Paralegal (Pending Admission)

+852 2388 3899

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