Foreign lawyers should be aware of the two methods to enforce a judgment of a foreign court in Hong Kong on behalf of clients. The first and most widely available method is to obtain a valid Hong Kong judgment. The second method is to apply for an ex-parte order registering a foreign judgment.
Obtaining a Hong Kong judgment requires either suing on the foreign judgment as a debt or re-litigating the case in dispute. The approach of suing on the judgment as a debt is preferred. To do so, the plaintiff must file a claim with the court in Hong Kong citing the foreign judgment debt as the cause of action. The original cause of action and jurisdiction in which the original judgment was granted (common law or civil law) are irrelevant considerations. The plaintiff would usually then apply for summary judgment which, if granted, gives the plaintiff a valid enforceable Hong Kong enforceable judgment. Re-litigating the case to get a judgment is not usually necessary. This approach is time-consuming and it is uncertain as to whether the Hong Kong court would grant the same judgment as originally obtained.
The other method of enforcement requires the plaintiff to apply for an ex-parte order to register the judgment pursuant to the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Ordinance (“FJREO”). Once registered, the judgment has the same characteristics as one obtained in Hong Kong and is therefore enforceable by the usual methods of execution. However, this method is only applicable to judgments obtained in jurisdictions recognized under the FJREO, this list is quite restrictive in scope.