Arbitration agreements

What are the formal requirements for an enforceable arbitration agreement?

Arbitration agreements must be made in writing or recorded in any written form (including, for example, electronic communication or the reference in a contract to any documents containing an arbitration clause) to be enforceable in Hong Kong.

Arbitral procedure

Does the domestic law contain substantive requirements for the procedure to be followed?

Hong Kong domestic law does not contain substantive requirements for the procedure to be followed in arbitration proceedings. Generally speaking, the arbitral tribunal has the power to adopt suitable procedures for the conduct of the arbitration to avoid unnecessary delay or expense. In exercising such power, the arbitral tribunal is required to be independent, fair and impartial. Parties have the right to be treated equally, and to have a reasonable opportunity to present their cases.


When and in what form must the award be delivered?

Pursuant to the Arbitration Ordinance, there is no set time limit in which the award must be delivered unless otherwise agreed by the parties. Under the 2018 HKIAC Administered Arbitration Rules, the award shall be rendered no later than three months from the date when the arbitral tribunal declares the entire proceedings or the relevant phase of the proceedings closed, as applicable. The time, if any, limited for the making of an award may be extended by order of the court on the application of any party. The award must be in writing and signed by the arbitrator or arbitrators.


On what grounds can an award be appealed to the court?

Arbitral awards are usually not subject to appeal on the merits. However, parties may expressly agree in the arbitration agreement (as provided for in opt-in provisions in Schedule 2 of the Arbitration Ordinance) that awards may be challenged on the grounds of serious irregularity and appeals to court be allowed on questions of law.

Generally, the recourse for a party dissatisfied with an award in an international arbitration is to apply to the tribunal for a correction or interpretation of the award, or for an additional award, or to apply to the court to set aside the award under the limited grounds set out in Part 9 of the Arbitration Ordinance.


What procedures exist for enforcement of foreign and domestic awards?

An award made in or outside Hong Kong is enforceable in the same manner as a judgment of the Hong Kong courts, with the leave of the court.

Arbitral awards are divided into several categories:

  • Convention award. A Convention award (made in a country that is a party to the New York Convention, other than mainland China) is enforceable either by an action in the court or with the court’s leave under the general provision of section 84 of the Arbitration Ordinance;
  • mainland China award. An arbitral award made in mainland China by a recognised arbitral authority pursuant to the Arbitration Law of mainland China can be enforced in Hong Kong in the same manner as a Convention award. The Arbitration Ordinance contains provisions to guard against double recovery where enforcement proceedings are taken in both mainland China and Hong Kong; and
  • other awards. Any other awards are enforceable with the court’s leave under the general provisions of section 84 of the Arbitration Ordinance.

Parties seeking to enforce an award under the Arbitration Ordinance must produce certain documents, including the duly authenticated original award and the original arbitration agreement, or duly certified copies of the award and the arbitration agreement.

Hong Kong remains an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction and there is a strong presumption in favour of enforcement of Convention awards.