Binding precedent system in Hong Kong courts

The doctrine of binding precedent serves two distinct functions in Hong Kong. It determines the effect of decisions of the English and other overseas common law courts on Hong Kong courts and also the effect of Hong Kong decisions on Hong Kong courts.

The landmark case of
A Solicitor v the Law Society of Hong Kong (FACV No 24 of 2007) has reaffirmed the order of precedence in which decisions shall be binding on the Hong Kong courts. In summary, Hong Kong courts are bound by:

  • Hong Kong decisions from the Court of Final Appeal, the Hong Kong Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance, as well as
  • Privy Council decisions on appeal from Hong Kong before 1 July 1997.

Decisions from all other common law jurisdictions are persuasive. In particular, those from the House of Lords and the Privy Council (non-HK appeals) shall be treated with great respect and in practice are usually followed by the Hong Kong courts.

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