Hong Kong—confidentiality and arbitration
Produced in partnership with Amanda Lees and Tiffany Lee of Simmons & Simmons (Hong Kong & Singapore)
Hong Kong—confidentiality and arbitration

The following Arbitration guidance note Produced in partnership with Amanda Lees and Tiffany Lee of Simmons & Simmons (Hong Kong & Singapore) provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Hong Kong—confidentiality and arbitration
  • Duty of confidentiality
  • Disclosure by consent
  • Other circumstances in which disclosure is permissible
  • The award
  • Evidence and documents
  • The courts
  • Confidentiality agreements

This Practice Note considers the law on the confidentiality of international arbitrations seated in Hong Kong.

An important reason for many parties choosing arbitration is the understanding that the whole process is private and that the disclosed documents and documents generated for the arbitration are all subject to confidentiality. For example, in the QMUL/White & Case 2010 survey, 'Choices in International Arbitration', 62% of respondents said that confidentiality was very important to them in international arbitration. Also, in the 2015 survey, 'Improvements and Innovations in International Arbitration', confidentiality and privacy were in the top five most valuable characteristics of international arbitration.

Confidentiality has generally been assumed but in recent years the courts have been asked to consider both the extent of the parties' duty of confidentiality and the extent to which the courts can override any such duty. In Milsom v Ablyazov, Briggs J in the English High Court concluded that '...arbitration confidentiality or privacy is not absolute. Its preservation in any particular situation, for example an arbitration appeal, is only the starting point and may be overridden where either the public interest or... in the interests of justice require'.

In Hong Kong, the Arbitration Ordinance, Chapter 609 (AO) contains express provisions on confidentiality that apply to arbitrations seated in Hong Kong. AO, s 18(1) provides that unless otherwise provided by the parties,