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Hong Kong – General adjournment of court proceedings given severity of “5th Wave” of COVID-19

04 April 2022. Published by Carmel Green, Partner and Jennifer Leung, Associate

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong, in January 2020, the judiciary adjourned all court hearings save for urgent and essential matters.

The “general adjourned period”, as it was known, ran from 29 January to 3 May 2020. Since then, and until recently, the courts have generally remained open during the pandemic, with more use being made of remote hearings and disposal of civil proceedings based on written submissions.

Given the severity of the “5th Wave” of the pandemic in Hong Kong, on 4 March 2022 the judiciary announced another “general adjournment of proceedings”; this time to run from 7 March to 11 April 2022.

It is estimated that, within a couple of months, COVID-19 infections increased from approximately 12,500 people (in a city of approximately 7.5 million people) to a situation where, by mid-March 2022, well over 10% of the city’s population had been infected. Some estimates suggest that, by the time the current surge of infections is over, more than half of the city’s population will have been infected.

The current general adjournment is similar to the previous one except that this time the courts have tried to complete hearings that had started but not finished by 7 March 2022. Civil hearings originally listed during the current adjournment will be dealt with remotely, by paper disposal or refixed (subject to directions by the courts). The knock-on effect is likely to be more pronounced for substantive criminal matters.

The judiciary’s press release (dated 4 March 2022) and supporting “Notification for Stakeholders about General Adjournment of Proceedings” confirm the types of court and registry business that continue to be conducted. While the current general adjournment is referred to as a short period of “around one month” it may be extended.

Contact Us

Please contact Carmel or Jennifer if you have any queries regarding the issues raised in this article.

This article is intended to give general information only. It is not a complete statement of the law. It is not intended to be relied upon or to be a substitute for legal advice in relation to particular circumstances

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