Editor's Note October 2019

Hong Kong does not recognise same-sex marriage. So, what happens to a gay couple who gets married in a jurisdiction where same-sex marriage is legal and then moves to Hong Kong? Will the couple be treated differently compared to a heterosexual married couple? For example, the Domestic and Cohabitation Relationships Violence Ordinance, which came into effect in 2010, entitles an applicant who is in a relationship whether of the same sex or of the opposite sex to apply for an injunction. Although, one need not be married to exercise such right. The Human Rights Feature discusses the recent Court of Final Appeal decision where same-sex marriage can be recognised concerning spousal benefits in relation to employment and taxation.

Next, as technology continues to evolve, it has already had an impact on the way we work and function. Even court systems, globally, have started utilising or planning to make changes in order to accommodate artificial intelligence (AI). For example, in early 2019, a Shanghai court adopted an AI software to facilitate judicial hearings. Moreover, since 2018, judges in some parts of the US are guided by computer algorithms. The Criminal Sentencing Feature explores the possibility of Hong Kong courts using AI for sentencing purposes in order to produce consistent and predictable sentencing, and possibly save taxpayers’ money.

Finally, it has been acknowledged that divorce rates are on the rise in Hong Kong. The sole ground for making an application for divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage by pleading and proving at least one of the five facts (adultery, desertion, unreasonable behaviour, etc.) which are stated in the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance and adopted from the UK (it may or may not have been a case of isomorphic mimicry). In 2019, however, the UK government agreed to introduce legislation permitting a spouse to apply for divorce without the need to show fault or proving any of the five facts. Accordingly, the Family Law feature deliberates whether Hong Kong should follow suit.

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Lead Legal Editor, Hong Kong Lawyer