The Joint Declaration and the Basic Law specifically guarantee the establishment of a Hong Kong based Court of Final Appeal on 1 July 1997. It replaced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London as the final appellate court for Hong Kong. It has jurisdiction conferred on it by the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Ordinance (Cap 484) and it hears appeals on civil and criminal matters from the High Court.
The Court of Final Appeal Ordinance provides that an appeal shall be heard and determined by the Court constituting the Chief Justice, three permanent judges and one non-permanent Hong Kong judge or one judge from another common law jurisdiction.
The High Court comprises the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance.
The Court of Appeal hears appeals on all civil and criminal matters from the Court of First Instance and the District Court. It also hears appeals from the Lands Tribunal and some statutory bodies.
The jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance is unlimited in both criminal and civil matters. The Court of First Instance also hears appeals from Magistrates' Courts, the Labour Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal and the Obscene Articles Tribunal.
The District Court has limited jurisdiction in both criminal and civil matters. In its criminal jurisdiction, the court may hear cases with the exception of a few very serious offences such as murder, manslaughter and rape. The maximum term of imprisonment it can impose is seven years.
The District Court has civil jurisdiction to hear monetary claims over $50,000 but not more than $1,000,000. Apart from its general civil jurisdiction, the District Court has exclusive jurisdiction over claims brought under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance (Cap 282), tax recovery claims under the Inland Revenue Ordinance (Cap 112) and distress for rent under the Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance (Cap 7).
Matrimonial causes (e.g. divorce) and adoption applications must also be commenced in the District Court (the court which handles these types of cases is known as the Family Court).
Magistrates exercise criminal jurisdiction which covers a wide range of indictable and summary offences . Their powers of punishment are generally restricted to a maximum of two years' imprisonment or a fine of $100,000. While in respect of certain offences their powers are greater. There are also some special magistrates who deal with cases of a more routine nature, such as hawking and minor traffic offences.Coroner's Court
The Coroner's Court inquires into the nature or the cause of deaths which occur as a result of accident or violence or under suspicious circumstances.Juvenile Court
The Juvenile Court hears charges against children and young persons under the age of 16 for any offence other than homicide. It also has the jurisdiction to make care and protection orders in respect of young persons under the age of 18. For more details about the Juvenile Court, please click here.Lands Tribunal
The Lands Tribunal deals with cases arising from tenancy disputes and matters in relation to building management. It also hears applications for the determination of compensations caused by land resumption and the appeals against the assessment of rateable value or government rent or market value of properties under the Housing Ordinance.Labour Tribunal
The Labour Tribunal deals with claims arising from the alleged breach of terms of employment contracts such as arrears of wages, statutory holiday pay, maternity leave pay, etc. The hearings are informal and no legal representation by lawyers is allowed.Small Claims Tribunal
The Small Claims Tribunal hears minor monetary claims involving amounts not exceeding $50,000. The hearings are informal and no legal representation by lawyers is allowed.Obscene Articles Tribunal
The main function of the Obscene Articles Tribunal is to determine and classify whether or not an article or other matter publicly displayed is obscene or indecent.Commissions and Commissioners
In addition to the judicial and administrative tribunals, there are a number of other bodies set up to oversee compliance with specific legislation and to which members of the public may have channels to speak out if they feel aggrieved. Some of them may be closely related to our daily lives, such as the Office of the Ombudsman, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Privacy Commissioner's Office.