For the second time in two years, Hong Kong’s government has announced that it will introduce amendments to the Arbitration Ordinance (Cap. 609). The proposed amendments are designed to remove legal uncertainties relating to the Schedule 2 “opt-in mechanism” for domestic arbitration.

The Department of Justice announced the proposed changes on 21 January, in response to requests by Hong Kong’s arbitration community. The Bill was gazetted on 23 January.

The amendments would allow parties to domestic arbitrations in Hong Kong to decide on the number of arbitrators. Currently, although parties to Hong Kong arbitrations are generally free to determine the number of arbitrators (s.23 Arbitration Ordinance), domestic arbitrations to which Schedule 2 of the Arbitration Ordinance applies must be submitted to a sole arbitrator. 

Other proposed amendments include updating the Ordinance’s list of parties to the the New York Convention, to reflect the addition of Bhutan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guyana as new states party to the Convention, and the British Virgin Islands (following the UK’s recent notification to extend the territorial application of the New York Convention to the BVI).

The Arbitration (Amendment) Bill 2015, which contains the above amendments, was gazetted on 23 January and will be introduced into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on 4 February.

The proposed amendments are to be welcomed, as a further indication that Hong Kong is willing to update its arbitral legislation regularly, and to respond to feedback from its arbitral community.