On 1 March 2017, the ‘Arrangement on Mutual Taking of Evidence in Civil and Commercial Matters between the Courts of the Mainland and the Hong Kong SAR’ came into effect in the People’s Republic of China (“the Mainland”). The new legislation helps to clarify the basic requirements and procedures that are to be in place for requesting evidence between the Mainland and Hong Kong SAR.
Prior to this law being enacted, letters of requests for obtaining evidence in civil and commercial matters between the Hong Kong SAR and the Mainland jurisdictions had to be submitted to intermediary bodies before the requests could ultimately reach the executing authority. Furthermore, practitioners were not certain what content was to be included in the letters of requests. Since 2016, the Hong Kong SAR has been in negotiations with the Supreme People's Court of the Mainland for an arrangement to help improve the efficiency and certainty of evidence exchange procedures in relation to civil and commercial cases between the Mainland and the Hong Kong SAR. The new law provides clearer guidance on where the letters should be sent and what should be included in the letters to facilitate the processing of the requests.
There is also guidance for the requested party to complete the requested matter, where possible, within 6 months of receipt of the letter of request, which, if enforced, will help to manage time expectations.
The move to facilitate efficient evidence gathering may help production of relevant or key evidence in a litigation proceeding. In turn, this could help to reduce court time and legal cost for clients in actions with the Mainland and Hong Kong SAR cross-jurisdictional components.