The much-awaited Arrangement for Mutual Service of Judicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Cases between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Macao Special Administrative Region (the “Arrangement”), which was signed three years ago on 5 December 2017, will come into force tomorrow, 1 August 2020. We previously reported on the proposed arrangement on our Asia Disputes blog here.
The Arrangement overcomes limitations in the civil procedure rules which previously resulted in Hong Kong litigants only being able to rely on private means to effect service on persons in Macao, for example, by engaging lawyers to serve documents there (which was potentially subject to legal challenge before the Macao Court). These rules have now been amended to give effect to the Arrangement. With the Arrangement now in place, designated authorities can transmit and execute requests for service of judicial documents in civil and commercial proceedings. Requests for service may be made through the Court of Final Appeal of Macao and the High Court of Hong Kong.
The judicial documents that fall under the Arrangement, for both Hong Kong and Macao, are set out in Article 2 of the Arrangement. Hong Kong judicial documents include, but are not limited to, duplicate copies of originating process and notices of appeal, summonses, pleadings, affidavits, judgments/decisions/rulings, notices, court orders, certificates of service and their relevant attachments.
When requesting service of documents, the requesting party shall produce a letter of request setting out the types of documents attached to it. Notably, the letter of request is required to be in Chinese. If the judicial documents attached are not in Chinese, they must be accompanied by a Chinese translation. Other administrative and procedural details are set out in the Arrangement and can be accessed here.
Given that the number of incoming and outgoing requests for service of judicial documents in civil and commercial cases from or to Macao is relatively limited, the implementation of the Arrangement is not expected to cause a sudden or immediate rise in the number of such requests, but is nevertheless a welcome change to the rules as it plugs an important gap between the two special administrative regions and simplifies the process of serving judicial documents between them.