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Courts Returning to Business - Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong
  • Coronavirus - Country overview
  • Litigation and dispute management


Since 29 January 2020, as a result of the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Judiciary has generally adjourned court proceedings and closed Court Registries/Offices due to public health considerations (the “General Adjourned Period”). We summarise below the Judiciary’s latest plan for resuming operations of the Courts.

The Week of 2 March 2020 – As with the previous weeks, the Courts will continue to operate in a limited manner. Only urgent and essential hearings and/or matters will be handled by the Courts, including the filing of claims the limitation period of which may expire during the General Adjourned Period. The Court Registries will remain closed and general filing of documents with the Court Registries will not be accepted. However, parties to litigation should still serve documents on other parties during this period as required by any legislation and/or court order.

From 9 March 2020 to 22 March 2020 – While court proceedings will continue to be generally adjourned except for urgent and essential hearings, some of the Court Registries will re-open.

End of General Adjourned Period – At the moment, the Judiciary expects that the General Adjourned Period will end on 23 March 2020 (if the public health situation permits). The operations of the Courts will then gradually resume to normal.

Based on our experience, the Court of First Instance is actively managing those civil cases which have hearings adjourned during the General Adjourned Period, and is encouraging the parties to dispose of applications made to the Court on paper without a hearing. In some cases, the Court has reached out to the parties and asked for documents/submissions to be submitted to the Court via email (with prescriptive details as to how this should be done e.g. file type, size, and filename). We would expect the Court to continue to handle cases in a similar way in the coming weeks.

On 28 February 2020, the Court of First Instance handed down a Judgment holding that telephone hearings are permissible under the Court Rules1. This could offer another alternative to physical hearings.

The present situation highlights the pressing need for the Hong Kong Courts to be modernised by adopting the use of electronic technology. In this respect, the Court Proceedings (Electronic Technology) Bill discussed in our recent e-briefing should be welcomed.

1 see the Judgment by Coleman J in Cyberworks Audio Video Technology Limited v Mei Ah (HK) Company Limited, HCA 677 of 2006.