Arbitration Thrives in Hong Kong

Article excerpt

ARBITRATION THRIVES IN HONG KONG Arbitration in Hong Kong: A Practical Guide, Vols. 1 & 2. Justice Ma, editor-in-chief. Hong Kong: Sweet & Maxwell Asia (, 2003. Hardcover. 825 pages (Vol. 1), 859 pages (Vol. 2). $385 for two-volume set.

Hong Kong conjures images of skyscrapers, neon lights, bustling shopping centers and dragon dances at street festivals. It also brings to mind Jackie Chan, arguably Hong Kong's most famous ambassador, thanks to his incredibly successful karate flicks.

Located on the southeastern coast of China, Hong Kong is roughly one-third the size of Rhode Island. Despite its size, Hong Kong is one of Asia's greatest trading, shipping and banking centers. As such, it's a place where arbitration and other means of alternative dispute resolution are widely used. So, it should be no surprise that Hong Kong is the subject of a comprehensive work on arbitration.

Edited by Justice Ma, chief judge of Hong Kong's High Court, and Neil Kaplan (general editor), a former judge of the High Court, this two-volume set compiles articles contributed by 31 ADR practitioners and experts.

Historical Background

China ceded the colony of Hong Kong to Great Britain in 1842 but it regained sovereignty on July 1, 1997. When Great Britain controlled Hong Kong in the mid-19th century, it did not immediately create a system of civil litigation. The lack of a legal forum was a problem for foreign merchants but not for Chinese merchants, who traditionally used arbitration. And so foreign traders were given the choice of submitting their disputes to arbitration, or waiting for a Supreme Court to be established. Arbitration in Hong Kong evolved from these humble beginnings and thrived over the years. A turning point came in 1963 with the introduction of comprehensive arbitration legislation based on the English Arbitration Act of 1950. The 1963 ordinance became the basis for modern arbitration practice in Hong Kong.

Conflict Prevention

Most books on arbitration start with a definition of the process, but this one begins with a chapter on preventing disputes through effective contract negotiations. This sets the tone of the entire work. It attests to Hong Kong's reputation as a bastion of international business, and tells readers that the territory is no amateur in the field of ADR. "Prevention is better than cure," writes Christopher To in the first chapter, where he discusses the importance of choosing the right dispute resolution mechanism before starting a working relationship.

Despite the word "arbitration" in the title, the book also discusses mediation and other ADR methods. Mediation, also known as "conciliation," is popular in Asia. "Most Asian cultures seek a harmonious solution and not an imposed one," writes David Bateson in chapter two. He notes that mediation is particularly effective there because it helps "save face" and therefore, preserve relationships.

Bateson discusses the different ADR processes, all of which are undoubtedly familiar to American ADR practitioners and users, except for the dispute resolution advisor (DRA). …