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The Hong Kong Arbitration (Amendment) Bill 2015

10 February 2015
The Arbitration (Amendment) Bill 2015 was gazetted on 23 January 2015 and proposes to amend the existing Arbitration Ordinance (Cap. 609) (the "Ordinance") to:

  • adjust the circumstances under which the opt-in provisions in Schedule 2 to the Ordinance do not automatically apply; and
  • update the list of state parties to the New York Convention.


When the Ordinance came into operation in 2011, it unified the separate arbitration regimes for domestic and international arbitration, which co-existed under the old Arbitration Ordinance (Cap. 341, repealed on 1 June 2011).

The Ordinance provides for a limited exception to this unified regime.  This was in response to the request of stakeholders, including parties from the construction industry in Hong Kong.   In particular, Schedule 2 to the Ordinance sets out provisions that may be expressly opted for or automatically apply in certain cases.  It allows for a dual regime for domestic arbitrations, similar to practice under the old law.

Current updates

The legal profession has, however, expressed concern over the legal uncertainties in relation to the application of the opt-in provisions under Schedule 2 in cases where parties of a "domestic arbitration" have specified the number of arbitrators of the tribunal. The proposed amendments, addressing this issue, would allow parties to choose the number of arbitrators in those arbitrations to which Schedule 2 applies, which reflects the general position in Hong Kong arbitrations.  Currently, the Schedule 2 provisions allow for the appointment of a sole arbitrator only.

Separately, the amendments also propose to update the list of state parties to the New York Convention as set out in the Arbitration (Parties to New York Convention) Order (Cap.609A) (the "Order")  by adding Bhutan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Guyana, in addition to the British Virgin Islands as an entry relating to the United Kingdom.

The writers welcome the amendments to the Ordinance, and see that the amendments may encourage parties to choose arbitrations in Hong Kong as a means of dispute resolution, by removing the afore-said legal uncertainties and updating the Order to include more countries who have become parties to the New York Convention.

Amy Lo

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