HOW THE CENTRAL AUTHORITY WORKS IN HONG KONG

This article will provide guidance on how the central authority works in Hong Kong.  Executive, legislative, and judicial authority have been delegated from the central government in China’s Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. An executive-led governmental structure was mainly carried over from the territory’s experience as a British colony since the Sino-British Joint Declaration ensured economic and administrative continuity through the transfer of sovereignty. In light of these provisions and the ‘one country, two systems’ premise, the regional constitution of Hong Kong is the Basic Law of Hong Kong.  Click Here for information on the Code of Civil Procedure in Hong Kong.

Our Undisputed Legal process servers are local to Hong Kong. Consequently, we are familiar with the requirements of the Basic Law for process service in the country. The subsidiary courts and the Court of Final Appeal uphold laws compatible with the Basic Law and interpret those that are not. Since  Hong Kong process service follows both the judiciary of the local courts as well as the Hague Service Convention, our experience in serving papers across the globe ensures that your documents are delivered as effectively as possible. Click here for a video on International Process Service.

The Central Authority

The Chief Secretary for Administration is the Central Authority for the service of papers in Hong Kong.  The Chief Bailiff of the Court is responsible for forwarding the legal papers.  If the recipient is an individual, service may be personally delivered to them. Alternatively, service by mail is also acceptable in this case. 

If the recipient is a corporation or limited liability firm, service may be left at or sent by mail to the registered office address.  Our  Undisputed Legal process servers are local to the area and make use of the resources provided by the Companies Registry, where one may find or verify the registered office address of a limited company or corporation. When the addressee no longer uses the registered office, it may be served personally by the chairman, president, clerk, secretary, treasurer, or similar official of the company or corporation. 

In cases where personal service is necessary but the Court determines that it is impractical to serve the document on the addressee themselves, substituted service is usually undertaken. At Undisputed Legal, we make sure to be updated in the forms of service at any Hong Kong court jurisdiction. We can serve your papers according to the mode of service that the Court has undertaken. Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers

Informal process service

In addition to official deliveries, the Chief Bailiff also handles informal delivery of papers. Unless prohibited by local legislation, service may be made via the applicant’s preferred means. There must be a translation into either English or Chinese and two copies of the procedure to be served if the request is not in one of those languages. Two copies of the translated process are required unless a court or tribunal from a non-Hong Kong jurisdiction certifies that the person to be served can comprehend the original language.

Hong Kong does not charge any fee for carrying out requests under the Hague Service Convention. Although the Bailiff is responsible for effecting service, the costs associated with any specified mode of service (such as a newspaper ad) must be paid or repaid. Typically, it takes around four months to execute a request. 

Whenever a local court receives a letter of request, it will normally transmit it to the Chief Secretary for Administration, the responsible authority for Hong Kong, to be processed. In Hong Kong, parties cannot get direct assistance from government authorities. On the other hand, direct appointment of a private agent (often a law firm) to accomplish service is possible. Our Undisputed Legal process servers are especially important since most Hong services will see the government of the Kong process service the courts as superfluous intermediaries.

The Hong Kong Court of Justice does not charge a fee for the service of papers. Foreign judicial authorities, officials, or other competent people may designate lawyers to serve the process, but the government does not restrict their fees. The services and time needed to complete the request determine the price.  The Chinese Mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region have an internal agreement regarding the service of process.

Role of the Chief Secretary for Administration

As a senior executive and member of the Executive Council, the Chief Secretary for Administration is one of three senior officials who may step in and temporarily take over the responsibilities of the Chief Executive in the event that the latter is temporarily unable to do so.

The Chief Secretary for Administration aids the Chief Executive in managing the bureaux. As part of their responsibilities, the Chief Secretary for Administration coordinates the executive branch’s policy priorities, develops a stronger partnership with the legislature, and prepares the government’s legislative agenda. Further, the Chief Secretary for Administration carries out the legal duties assigned to them, including those pertaining to the management of appeals and certain government agencies. The Administration Wing of the Chief Secretary for Administration’s Office provides support for some of the aforementioned responsibilities.

Assisting the Chief Secretary for Administration with the supervision of the nine bureaus within their purview and coordinating the development and execution of cross-departmental policies are the responsibilities of the Deputy Chief Secretary for Administration. In addition, they act as an advisor to the Chief Executive and/or Chief Secretary for Administration and develop, coordinate, or oversee certain policy areas or initiatives as assigned.

Chan Kwok-ki has served as the chief secretary for administration since 1  July 2022. In addition, from 2020 to 2022, Kwok-ki served as the secretary-general of the Committee for the Protection of National Security.

Civil Procedure Rules in Hong Kong

Lawful service of process can be done at any time as long as the writ is issued within the applicable limitation period. This period would be during the writ’s twelve-month validity term, regardless of whether the limitation period has now passed After the writ is served, the defendant has fourteen days to provide an acknowledgment of service.  A writ may be served on them if the defendant’s counsel agrees to accept service on their behalf. The defendant declares their acceptance of service by endorsing it (RHC O.10, r.1(4)).  An undertaking to accept or recognize the service of the writ is given by the solicitor. In the event that delivery of the writ is necessary outside of the jurisdiction, the court will provide prior specification.   Regardless of whether it is transmitted, the service is considered finished upon receipt by the agent.

A non-Hong Kong firm that has its business in Hong Kong might be served with a writ in a legitimate manner via its representative with authorization.  Any and all papers that must be served upon the government as part of or in relation to any legal actions brought by or against the government must be served on the Secretary for Justice.

If the plaintiff has to provide evidence of service, such as when they are seeking judgment in default, they should be ready to provide a document attesting to the manner and assumed date of service. Prior to delivering a writ outside of the jurisdiction, the court’s permission must always be acquired. A local process server like those at Undisputed Legal can help ensure that our clients are always in compliance with the court requirements.

Obtaining a court order to serve overseas

A writ serving outside of the jurisdiction must adhere to the detailed guidelines in RHC Order 11 overseas. The plaintiff may petition the court in an ex parte proceeding. It is required that an affidavit be included in the application together with the writ and its copy. These documents are vital in overseas process service, and a private process service agency like Undisputed Legal, with experience serving these papers, can be helpful in ensuring compliance.

Delivery of local process service may be undertaken when no applicable international instrument exists. The writ and the service acknowledgment must be received before the court can grant permission to serve a writ outside of its jurisdiction. On the other hand, if the parties have already agreed on how to serve court papers, the agreed-upon technique may be utilized to serve a writ on a defendant outside of the jurisdiction. States that Hong Kong’s courts should hear and decide any legal action involving the subject matter. As a result, parties should consult with local process servers like Undisputed Legal to ensure papers are carefully served across jurisdictions.

process Service Abroad

The Hague Service Convention in Hong Kong mandates that the necessary court paperwork and a formal request from the appropriate Chief Secretary for Administration of Hong Kong SAR be included in the service of papers.  Also, mainland China and Hong Kong have a bilateral agreement for judicial service, to which Hong Kong is a party. Service of papers can also be done under the Arrangement on the Mutual Service of Judgement Papers in Commercial and Civil Proceedings between the Jurisdictions of the High Court (Amendment) Rules 1999, Mainland, and HKSAR Courts.

 Notification of foreign actions in cases where no applicable international agreement would come within the purview of the Royal High Court, which has defined techniques of service that may be used to accomplish service of foreign proceedings. Our Undisputed Legal process servers are familiar with the legislation and dynamics of Hong Kong process service. We adhere to international instruments like the Hague Service Convention as well as via bilateral treaties that make the service of papers easier. 

The head of Hong Kong’s administrative department typically needs three to four months to carry out the service request. The designated Central Authority and the supplementary authorities may contact the Authorities, Convention Regarding the Service Abroad of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters, which was put into effect on November 15, 1965.

Article 8 addresses the use of diplomatic or consular representatives for service.. Service can be done through execution by judges, government officials, or other suitably qualified individuals.   Unless otherwise specified in a contract, the courts in Hong Kong will not recognize service by email as a valid means of serving legal papers, and the agreement stipulates that the courts in Hong Kong have the authority to consider and rule on any matter pertaining to the agreement.

The plaintiff may seek a judgment in default if the defendant does not submit an acknowledgment of service. Additionally, service cannot be considered complete if the defense was not served within the allotted time. Typically, twenty-eight days would be added to the regularly allowed time frame for submitting an acknowledgment of service.

At its discretion, the court will take into account the defendant’s knowledge of the default judgment’s entry and the time it takes to file a motion to overturn the decision.

The Registrar must be provided with [A.] a written request for service from the Chief Secretary for Administration recommending that service be effected; [B.] a consular or other authority of the court or tribunal in a convention country; [C.] the judicial authorities of the Mainland; or [D.] the judicial authorities of Macao SAR. If the request is not in one of the official languages of Hong Kong, a translation into one of those languages must be attached. With the original request, there must be two copies of the process, and unless a court or tribunal outside of Hong Hat, the individual to be served can understand the language of the must to be  Kong confirms two processes, there copies of the translated process. 

The process server must leave a copy of the process along with the person to be served, along with a copy of the translation or certificate, if applicable. The process server is also required to provide the Registrar with a copy of the process along with an affidavit, certificate, or report that verifies the proper service of the process or explains why the service was unsuccessful. Additionally, the server must specify the costs associated with the service, as directed by the Court, in order to complete the process. Since the requirements of the server are so numerous, our Undisputed Legal process servers are indispensable in serving papers to Hong Kong. 

The Registrar is required to transmit a certificate and a copy of the procedure to the appropriate authorities, such as the consulate, the courts, or the Chief Secretary for Administration, depending on the situation. The certificate must state [A.] the moment and manner in which service was performed or attempted; and [B.] the sum certified by the taxing master as the expenses of performing or attempting service. Before being used outside of the jurisdiction, the certificate mentioned must be sealed with the High Court’s seal. The Chief Bailiff is appointed as the process server.

Apostilling Documents in Hong Kong and the Role of the Notary Public

Authentic public papers signed by a recognized authority, such as a government official in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, should be apostilled. For example, a marriage certificate signed by the Deputy Registrar of Marriage will have to be apostilled. 

Signatures on official documents must be attested by a Hong Kong Commissioner for Oaths or notary public authority. An example would be a notarized power of attorney or a certified genuine copy of a document issued by a public notary. The applicant must visit the Apostille Service Office with the desired apostille service document to file the application.  The applicant is required to pay the fee at the High Court Accounts Office at LG211, subject to approval, by cash, EPS, or a check payable to ‘The Government of Hong Kong SAR.’ After the acceptance of the document for apostille service, a receipt will be provided. A collection receipt will be produced for the document that is submitted when the customer returns to the Apostille Service Office and presents the payment receipt for inspection. A person may be authorized by the applicant to collect the apostille-certified document in the event that the applicant is unable to do so physically.

If an applicant does not already reside in Hong Kong, they have the option to designate an agent in the city to pick up the apostilled document, pay the fee in cash, and carry the necessary documents with them. An alternative would be to send the document and a bank draft ($125 per apostille) made out to the ‘Government of Hong Kong SAR’ to the Apostille Service Office, High Court Registry in Hong Kong. 

A notarized document verifies the authenticity of the signer and/or the authenticity of a copy. The main benefit is that it assures the end user that the document is legitimate and/or that the signature(s) are real, eliminating any possibility of fraud. A notarized document will include the notary’s signature and official seal, making it clear that the authenticating party is a notary. Notary certificates are often signed and sealed with the notary’s signature.

A notary is likely to reject the notarized document if it is tampered with after completion. Be wary of what seems to be innocuous activities—like removing staples to create a photocopy—that constitute ‘tampering’ with a document.

It is important to ensure that the paper has to be notarized. Before a party goes ahead and has a document notarized, there are so many factors that have to be considered Commonly required pieces of evidence include the signatory’s identification and, in the case of a corporate signatory, proof of authorization to execute the document. An original, valid passport or other picture ID and proof of residence (such as a utility bill) are usually required when dealing with private parties.

An appointment is always required for a notary public. By contacting the Hong Kong Society of Notaries, one may get a directory of all the notaries in Hong Kong. A notary public’s duties at a business party include verifying the identities of all participants and confirming the existence and authority of the organization (business or other organization) that each individual is representing.

 It is important to note that the usage of a notarized document is situational. A power of attorney (POA) is one document that often has a duration, such as one year. The POA will no longer be valid when the specified period has passed. Nevertheless, the notarization, which verifies the successful execution of the power of attorney, will still be valid.  For clarity’s sake and peace of mind, it could be prudent to have the document formally translated into a language the notary can comprehend before getting it notarized as per the usual procedure.

By their very nature, the notary public cannot attest to the legality of the document itself. Their certifications may confirm the authenticity of a document’s execution or its authenticity as a copy of the original.  The notary does not have to comprehend the paper; nevertheless, similar to notarizing documents in a foreign language, they must be convinced that the person signing the document knows what they are signing. Typically, United States documents are commonly notarized in Hong Kong.

When the final jurisdiction is not a party to the Hague Convention, meaning it cannot utilize an apostille, legalization is often necessary. Legalization by the appropriate embassy is required. However, it accomplishes the same general goal as an apostille. The fact that the legalization criteria vary from embassy to embassy makes the process more complicated: The need for a notarial certificate is subjective; some embassies may stipulate that papers be notarized independently, while others may not; the kinds of supporting documents that are required also differ.

Power of Attorney in Hong Kong

Sometimes, when an individual is unable to conduct their affairs in person by themselves, they designate a power of attorney to undertake their business. The donor or the grantor of the power of attorney selects a donee who may act on their behalf. In Hong Kong, a power of attorney can serve several functions, including facilitating a company’s incorporation when the investor is unable to be physically present, carrying out an incapacitated person’s wishes, or signing a property purchase document on someone else’s behalf.

General or particular powers of attorney may be granted in Hong Kong. If the donor (the one who grants the power of attorney) develops a mental incapacity, the GPA becomes invalid. The donor also has the option to withdraw their power of attorney or to restrict its use to a specific matter, such as the sale or rental of a single property. The grantor must be present for the execution of the power of attorney. Two more witnesses must be present when one individual, acting at the donor’s direction and in the donor’s presence, seals such a document. 

With an enduring power of attorney, the person who is empowered may continue to handle the donor’s financial matters even after the donor becomes mentally incapable. While in a state of mental competency, the donor must choose the attorney or attorneys. Under an everlasting power of attorney, two or more agents or attorneys-in-fact may operate jointly (not independently) or jointly and severally (both together and individually), depending on the circumstances. While the solicitors are preparing the agreement, the grantor will specify which team they should deal with.

The everlasting power of attorney might include specific instructions for how the agent is to spend the money. A language outlining the process for paying the attorney(s)-in fact, may be included in the agreement when the designated person is a professional, such as a lawyer, rather than a member of the family or a trusted individual.

Regarding the proper way to create and execute such papers for their intended purposes in Hong Kong, the applicable legislation is the Powers of Attorney Ordinance. The Ordinance defines the circumstances under which a person is legally unable to sign a power of attorney and lays forth the procedures for their execution. The grantor of the power of attorney must sign and seal the document in his own presence, with full awareness of the consequences of his actions. As a matter of law, the agent may also operate in his or her own name and execute any necessary papers (signed and sealed) to carry out the tasks assigned to them.

Foreign powers of attorney must adhere to certain procedures for notarization and legalization. For instance, if the document is issued in China, the Chinese Foreign Ministry must validate it in mainland China. Certain protocols must be followed when dealing with a power of attorney obtained in a different nation. Typically, the Foreign Ministry of that state must validate such documents. An Enduring Power of Attorney must be registered at the High Court for $440, and an apostille has to be associated.

A power of attorney may be useful while establishing a business in Hong Kong or anywhere else. Legally drafted power of attorney documents are secure as long as the agent named to manage the affairs is someone you trust. Hiring a professional, like a lawyer or other service provider, is recommended instead of relying on friends or family members. If you found this article helpful, kindly consider leaving us a review. Click the link to share your feedback, and we would greatly appreciate a five-star review.

OUR PROCESS

Documents can be faxed at (800)-296-0115, emailed to ps@undisputedlegal.com, mailed at 590 Madison Avenue, 21 Floor, New York, New York 10022, or dropped off at any of our locations. We do require pre-payment and accept all major credit and debit cards. Once payment is processed, your sales receipt is immediately emailed for your records. 

Drop-offs must call and make an appointment first to be added to building security to permit access to our office. Documents for service must be in a sealed envelope with payment in the form of a money order or attorney check (WE DO NOT ACCEPT CASH) payable to UNDISPUTED LEGAL INC.  Our receptionist receives all the documents.

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OFFICE LOCATIONS

New York: (212) 203-8001 – 590 Madison Avenue, 21st Floor, New York, New York 10022
Brooklyn: (347) 983-5436 – 300 Cadman Plaza West, 12th Floor, Brooklyn, New York 11201
Queens: (646) 357-3005 – 118-35 Queens Blvd, Suite 400, Forest Hills, New York 11375
Long Island: (516) 208-4577 – 626 RXR Plaza, 6th Floor, Uniondale, New York 11556
Westchester: (914) 414-0877 – 50 Main Street, 10th Floor, White Plains, New York 10606
Connecticut: (203) 489-2940 – 500 West Putnam Avenue, Suite 400, Greenwich, Connecticut 06830
New Jersey: (201) 630-0114 – 101 Hudson Street, 21 Floor, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
Washington DC: (202) 655-4450 – 1101 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 300, Washington DC 20004

FOR ASSISTANCE SERVING LEGAL PAPERS IN HONG KONG

Pick up the phone and call Toll Free (800) 774-6922, or click the service you want to purchase. Our dedicated team of professionals is ready to assist you. We can handle all your Hong Kong process service needs; no job is too small or too large!

Contact us for more information about our process-serving agency. We are ready to provide service of process to all our clients globally from our offices in New York, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C.

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives”– Foster, William A

Sources

1. Room 321, 3/F, East Wing, Central Government Offices, 2 Tim Mei Avenue, Admiralty, Hong Kong, China, HK Special Administrative Region Government, Chief Secretary for Administration, cso@cso.gov.hk,

2. Order 69 Rule 4 of the Rules of the High Court (‘RHC’), Chapter 4A, Laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

3. Chapter 622 of the Laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Section 827 of the Companies Ordinance

4. http://www.icris.cr.gov.hk/csci

5. Order 65, rule 3 of the RHC, and Order 69, rule 3 of the Rand Ordinance, Chapter 622, Laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, pertain to service on businesses

6. Resolution No. 69, Rule 3(1) RHC

7. Registrar of the High Court, 38 Queensway, Hong Kong, China, enquiry@judiciary.hk, is the competent authority according to Articles 6, 9, and 38.

8. ‘[Party 2] grants [NAME] of [ADDRESS] [FAX NUMBER] the irrevocable authority to accept communications on its behalf  in any judicial action to resolve any disagreement in [COUNTRY/JURISDICTION] on any allegation, dispute, or issue relating to the creation, subject matter, or execution of this agreement.’

9. Section 803 lays forth the specific requirements for serving a non-Hong Kong corporation. Section 622 of the Companies Ordinance (1982).

10. According to RHC O.11, r.4(2)

11. Provisions as to Proceedings of a Country or Place Outside Hong Kong (L.N. 39 of 1999)

Order 69 Service of Process from a Country or Place Outside Hong Kong

(L.N. 39 of 1999)

12. Service of process from outside of Hong Kong is subject to the same rules as service of writs under Order 10, rule 1(2)(b) regarding insertion through a letterbox, with the exception that the Registrar may direct the use of an affidavit, certificate, or report to prove service. (Law Number 39 of 1999)

13.  The same rules (Order 65, rule 4) that govern the service of writs also apply to the service of process outside Hong Kong. However, the Registrar has the authority to order substituted service of process from outside Hong Kong based on the process server’s affidavit, certificate, or report without an application being made to him. (Law Number 39 of 1999)

14. If the certificate was issued by a civil celebrant or a religious institution, a certified genuine copy may be obtained from the Record Office of the Marriage Registry. Certificates of Registered Particulars, Birth and Death Certificates, Certificate of Absence of Marriage Records, and Certificates of Incorporation – Certificate of Business Registration.

15. Apostille Service Office, High Court Registry, Room LG115

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