On 27 November, the Supreme People’s Court and the Hong Kong SAR Government held a ceremony in Shenzhen at which the two sides signed the Supplemental Arrangement Concerning Mutual Enforcement of Arbitral Awards between the Mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region” (the Supplemental Arrangement (关于内地与香港特别行政区相互执行仲裁裁决的补充安排). It supplements the original Arrangement Concerning Mutual Enforcement of Arbitral Awards between the Mainland and the HKSAR which was signed on 21 June 1999 and came into effect on 1 February 2000 (1999 Arrangement). The SPC also issued 10 related typical cases (典型案例) in both Chinese and English versions, the first time the SPC has done so for an arrangement.
SPC arrangements with the Hong Kong SAR are considered judicial assistance documents. As Hong Kong is part of China (one country-two systems), the view is that judicial assistance between the Mainland and Hong Kong can be broader and closer (and so differs from international judicial assistance).
After the Supplemental Arrangement becomes fully effective, it will ease the implementation of a number of arbitration-related matters between the Hong Kong SAR and the (mainland) Chinese courts. Herbert Smith Freehills and other law firms and barristers’ chambers) have published insightful summaries of the Supplemental Arrangement.
This blogpost discusses some issues related to SPC arrangements (with the Hong Kong and Macao SARs), drawing on the remarks made by Judge Si Yanli, one of the deputy heads of the SPC’s Research Office at the press conference following the ceremony. The Research Office is a unique institution of the SPC. It does not directly hear cases, but is often involved in a broad range of issues. A 1995 SPC document describes it as a “comprehensive operational department.”
Judge Si is responsible for handling Hong Kong and Macau related matters , who would have headed the team negotiating with the HKSAR Department of Justice on these arrangement Judge Si is well-known to the Hong Kong international arbitration community. She has spoken at Hong Kong Arbitration Week events in recent years, impressing all who have heard her speak with her insightful presentations.
Legal Framework for Arrangements
The legal framework for this arrangement, and the other previous ones concluded between the two jurisdictions is Article 95 of the Hong Kong Basic Law:
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may, through consultations and in accordance with law, maintain juridical relations with the judicial organs of other parts of the country, and they may render assistance to each other.
Fitting Arrangements into the Chinese legal landscape
A single sentence in Judge Si’s press conference called attention to a procedure that is rarely discussed, at least in English–fitting arrangements into the Chinese legal landscape. Judge Si mentioned that for the Supplementary Arrangement to be effectively implemented on the mainland, it must be transformed into a judicial interpretation. Although Judge Si did not set out the reasons that the SPC does so, it is understood that if implemented in this way, judges in local Chinese courts who need to implement an arrangement can issue rulings or judgments that cite the relevant provisions of an arrangement that have been transformed into a judicial interpretation.
The effective implementation of the Supplementary Arrangement in the Mainland needs to be transformed into judicial interpretation, and for its effective implementation in Hong Kong, it needs to be transformed into local legislation. In the Mainland, on November 9, the 1815th meeting of the judicial committee of the SPC passed the “Supplementary Arrangement” and agreed to transform it into a judicial interpretation;补充安排》在内地的生效实施需要转化为司法解释，在香港的生效实施需要转化为本地立法。在内地，11月9日，最高人民法院审判委员第1815次会议已审议通过《补充安排》，并同意将其转化为司法解释；
The drafting of the Supplemental Arrangement involved input from relevant authorities, among them the Legislative Affairs Commission (LAC) of the National People’s Congress. That is clear from this statement in Judge Si’s press conference.
The successful signing of the “Supplementary Arrangement” is due to the strong guidance of the Legislative Affairs Commission, of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council and other relevant central authorities, as well as the strong support of the judicial and legal circles in the two places.《补充安排》的成功签署离不开全国人大常委会法制工作委员会、香港基本法委员会，国务院港澳事务办公室等中央有关部门的大力指导以及两地司法法律界的有力支持.
Soliciting views from relevant authorities is usual practice when the SPC drafts judicial interpretations. In this way the judicial interpretation that the SPC issues draws on specialist knowledge in the relevant authorities and enables the judicial interpretation to reflect a harmonized approach. As to the importance of the SPC consulting the LAC of the National People’s Congress, that institution will review the final version of a judicial interpretation after the judicial committee of the SPC approves it and files it with the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. Again, it enables the judicial interpretation to reflect an approach harmonized between the SPC and the LAC.
As the Chinese court system evolves to become increasingly integrated with international treaties and conventions, we are likely to see aspects of international conventions or bilateral judicial cooperation documents converted into or implemented through judicial interpretations, and the strong guidance of the LAC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other relevant central authorities making it possible.