HK passes ‘sorry law’ to pre­vent con­flicts

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By LUIS LIU in Hong Kong luis­liu@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Hong Kong’s leg­is­la­ture passed the “sorry law” bill on Thurs­day which will mean that apol­o­giz­ing for some­thing se­ri­ous will not be taken as an ad­mis­sion of guilt or as a le­gal li­a­bil­ity.

The pass­ing of the Apol­ogy Bill makes Hong Kong the first ju­ris­dic­tion in Asia to have such a law.

The gov­ern­ment’s le­gal chief Rim­sky Yuen Kwokke­ung said the move would en­hance Hong Kong’s sta­tus as the cen­ter for dis­pute res­o­lu­tion and le­gal ser­vices in the Asia Pa­cific re­gion.

The Apol­ogy Or­di­nance, pro­posed by the gov­ern­ment’s Steer­ing Com­mit­tee on Me­di­a­tion last year, is ex­pected to en­cour­age peo­ple to make apolo­gies for mis­takes, which will pre­vent dis­putes from es­ca­lat­ing and en­cour­age par­ties in­volved in con­flict to seek me­di­a­tion.

In pre­vi­ous cases, there was a pos­si­bil­ity that an apol­ogy could be used as ev­i­dence in court to de­ter­mine le­gal li­a­bil­ity. This re­sulted in peo­ple’s re­luc­tance to make apolo­gies, espe­cially in cases con­cern­ing med­i­cal neg­li­gence and other mis­takes that led to in­juries or death as they feared in­volve­ment in law suits or failed in­sur­ance claims.

The gov­ern­ment first started to con­sider bring­ing in such leg­is­la­tion after the 2012 Lamma ferry col­li­sion. At the time, the for­mer Marine Depart­ment chief Fran­cis Liu Hon-por took eight months to give an apol­ogy to the pub­lic. Liu said this was be­cause he needed to take le­gal ad­vice.

Such an at­ti­tude was not con­ducive to prevent­ing the es­ca­la­tion of dis­putes or their am­i­ca­ble res­o­lu­tion, the gov­ern­ment said in a Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil doc­u­ment. “On the con­trary, anx­i­ety and anger on the part of vic­tims or their fam­i­lies might in­crease if there is no sign of re­gret or ex­pres­sions of sor­row from the op­po­site party,” it stressed.

Apol­ogy laws are al­ready in place in com­mon law ju­ris­dic­tions. At present, apol­ogy leg­is­la­tion ex­ists in over 30 US states, most prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries of Canada. Aus­tralia and Scot­land also have such laws.

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