The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress ("SCNPC") has given its interpretation of certain questions referred to it by the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal ("CFA") in its landmark provisional judgment in Democratic Republic of the Congo v. FG Hemisphere Associates (click here for our previous briefing on the case).
The SCNPC's interpretation holds that the courts of Hong Kong are bound to give effect to the doctrine of sovereign immunity determined by the Central People's Government ("CPG"). The interpretation therefore confirms the basis of the CFA's provisional judgment that sovereign immunity in Hong Kong is absolute rather than restrictive, and the judgment of the CFA is now expected to be finalised on that basis.
Whilst the SCNPC's interpretation was expected, it nevertheless provides certainty in relation to the approach to sovereign immunity that will be followed by the courts of Hong Kong going forward. Following the decision of the Court of First Instance in Intraline Resources SDN BHD v. The Owners of the Ship or Vessel "Hua Tian Long" (reported here), both sovereign immunity and crown immunity in Hong Kong are absolute, with no exception for purely commercial transactions or assets..