The Status of Foreign Law in Chinese Courts

8 May 2019 by

Usually when a court in the UK is asked to consider a question of foreign law, the contents of that law are treated as a question of fact that must be pleaded and proved by the parties, usually by expert opinion. This is the case too in the United States, and in Hong Kong.

If the parties do not adduce factual evidence on the contents of the foreign law concerned, the English court will assume that the foreign law is exactly the same as the relevant English law – this is the common law notion of “presumption of identity”. This means, in effect, that where there is no foreign precedent on the point in question, or where the authorities are in conflict, the court must decide the matter for itself.

In an interesting briefing published by Links Law Office as part of their Dispute Resolution Bulletin, authors Patrick Zheng and Charles Qin explain that in China it is not clear whether foreign law constitutes a question of law or fact, as the Chinese court retains the power to investigate and clarify the applicable foreign law of its own motion.

Chinese law provides a number of ways for the parties and the court to “investigate and clarify” the applicable foreign law, including submissions by the parties, or the relevant foreign embassy, Chinese or foreign legal experts or “any other reasonable way to find foreign law, for example through the internet”.

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