The Civil Justice (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2007 introduced in the Legislative Counsel in April, will, when passed, amend the Arbitration Ordinance (Cap. 341) to enable the Hong Kong courts to grant interim relief in relation to foreign arbitrations in circumstances where those proceedings are capable of giving rise to an arbitral award which may be enforced in Hong Kong. This will give the Hong Kong courts an express power to freeze local assets in aid of foreign arbitration proceedings notwithstanding the fact the relief sought is not ancillary or incidental to any arbitration in Hong Kong. As to be expected, the Bill provides that the courts should have regard to the fact that its powers in this regard are designed to facilitate the "foreign" arbitration.

Although this is not a radical proposal (existing case law makes it clear that the Hong Kong courts already have this power), the amendments will put the court's power beyond any doubt and enable the court rules to be amended to permit service of applications for such relief outside of the jurisdiction. In turn, this should make it easier for those involved in foreign arbitrations to seek interim relief from the Hong Kong courts.

The Bill is still a long way from legislative implementation, but it is hoped that the amendments (together with associated court rules) will be introduced in 2008-9.