On December 31, 2007 the Department of Justice of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (the “DoJ”) published the draft Arbitration Bill and implemented a consultation period, during which views were sought on the reform of the arbitration law in Hong Kong. The consultation period for the reform of the Arbitration Law ended on June 30, 2008.

The DoJ is seeking to reform Hong Kong’s Arbitration Ordinance to make the law of arbitration more user-friendly to both domestic and international arbitration users and to create an arbitration regime which accords with widely accepted international arbitration practices.

The draft Arbitration Bill adopted the structure and provisions of the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration drafted by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (the “UNCITRAL Model Law”) as its framework, applying them to both domestic and international arbitration and creating a unitary regime. The draft Arbitration Bill replaces the somewhat convoluted ‘dual’ system that currently forms the Arbitration Ordinance, whereby separate procedures exist for domestic and international arbitration.

On January 12, 2009, in a speech at the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year 2009, the Secretary for Justice, Mr. Wong Yan Lung stated that “The new Arbitration Bill, to unify the regimes of arbitration on the basis of the internationally recognized UNCITRAL Model Law, will be introduced in the current legislative session.” The current legislative session in Hong Kong began in October 2008 and whilst its exact end date is unknown, the current session is expected to end by August 2009.

Mr. Wong added that “The new law would reinforce the advantages of arbitration, including respect for parties’ autonomy as well as the savings in time and cost for the parties.”