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The Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre’s inaugural Hong Kong Arbitration Week was an across-the-board success. The week’s events brought together some of the most prominent members of the international arbitration community to discuss and debate the biggest issues facing arbitration across the globe. Highlights of the week included the renowned ADR in Asia conference, focusing on the issue of party autonomy in arbitrations; GAR Live Hong Kong, a collaborative conference on the future of arbitration in China and India; and an instructive seminar on practice and procedure in ICSID arbitration. Participants also gathered at several evening events to support local causes and celebrate the launch of the HKIAC’s new facilities.
ICC / HK 45 Evening Seminar and Cocktail Party
Hong Kong Arbitration Week began with an evening seminar hosted by Julian Lew QC, who spoke with a panel of experts regarding Asia’s role as a dominant force in international arbitration in the 21st century. The seminar culminated in a cocktail party at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.
The first full-day conference of the week was a one-day primer course on practice and procedure in ICSID Convention arbitration, hosted by the ICSID Secretary-General and two senior lawyers from the Secretariat. Attendees, including government officials, arbitrators, legal practitioners, in-house counsel, and academics, were guided through the workings of an ICSID arbitration from start to finish. The seminar offered a unique opportunity for individuals in the arbitration community to learn more about ICSID through direct discussions with members of the Secretariat.
Hong Kong Arbitration Charity Ball
The inaugural Hong Kong Arbitration Charity Ball gave over 300 guests from Asia and beyond the opportunity to give back to local causes and to the Hong Kong arbitration community in general. Proceeds went to the Haven of Hope Sunnyside School, which cares for mentally impaired children, as well as the People’s Food Bank (St James’s Settlement), which provides food and assistance to Hong Kong’s poor and homeless. In furtherance of the event’s secondary objective of contributing to the local arbitration community, a portion of the proceeds also went to the HKIAC, which recently expanded its facilities. Each year, the ball committee will select new charitable causes and a new local arbitration organization as beneficiaries.
The evening began with a cocktail reception and featured a formal dinner, raffle, and auction. The auction alone, which included several pieces of art as well as holiday packages, raised nearly US$39,000. The evening’s entertainment included a speech by Mr Justice Frank Stock, a Hong Kong Appeal Court judge, and a surprise singing performance by Ow Kim Kit, the Asian regional director of the ICC Court of International Arbitration.
The ball committee was chaired by Gavin Denton, who recently established Arbitration Chambers in Hong Kong, and the event’s sponsors were Alix Partners and TransPerfect Legal Solutions. Robert Sleigh, a Sotheby’s wine auctioneer, led the auction, and gift bags were provided by Harvey Nichols and Shiseido. In addition to raising funds for worthy causes, the event was successful in fostering camaraderie among practitioners from within and without the Hong Kong arbitration community. The ball committee and the HKIAC intend to make this an annual event.
ADR in Asia Conference
The annual ADR in Asia conference was the centerpiece of the week’s events, bringing together over 200 arbitrators, academics, and practitioners from across the globe. The theme of the event—“Does Party Autonomy Help or Hinder the Arbitral Process?”—fueled insightful commentary and debate throughout the conference’s five sessions. Distinguished panels of leaders in the arbitration community discussed issues such as third-party funding in arbitral proceedings, challenges to the process of arbitrator appointment, and freedom of contract in Asian arbitration agreements. The conference also engaged practitioners from the Middle East and Africa to discuss the “new frontier” of arbitration, as well as in-house counsel of several major Asia-based corporations, who offered their own perspectives on arbitral case proceedings.
The event was held at the Four Seasons Hong Kong, was organized by the HKIAC, and received support from several sponsors from the Hong Kong legal community. This event will become a permanent fixture at Hong Kong Arbitration Week in the future, and the HKIAC expects that it will continue to draw practitioners from across the globe.
Launch of HKIAC’s New Premises
The ADR in Asia conference ended with the official launch of the HKIAC’s brand-new premises in Exchange Square, one of the premier office buildings in Central Hong Kong. The HKIAC now operates from the entire 38th floor of the building, and its top-of-the-line hearing rooms feature spectacular views of Hong Kong’s skyline. This expansion comes at a crucial time for the HKIAC, as its caseload of arbitrations and mediations continues to increase rapidly. The new facilities boast seven large hearing rooms and numerous meeting and breakout rooms, which double the Centre’s former capacity.
The launch ceremony and cocktail party were hosted at the HKIAC and were attended by over 200 guests—including the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, CY Leung, who unveiled a plaque to commemorate the expansion. Leung expressed his support of the growth of arbitral institutions in Hong Kong and his hopes that the HKIAC’s new space would enhance its already well-renowned arbitral offerings.
Attendees were impressed by the new facilities. As Julian Lew QC, a renowned UK arbitrator, commented this week, “The expanded facilities are very user-friendly, and provide an excellent facility for arbitrations in the region.”
GAR Live Hong Kong Conference
The week ended with the GAR Live Hong Kong conference, co-chaired by Michael J Moser, an independent arbitrator based in Hong Kong, and Justin D’Agostino, of Herbert Smith Freehills. The conference drew over 100 delegates who participated in several discussion-based sessions with a particular focus on arbitration in China and India. Sessions included panel discussions and a Tylney Hall-style symposium, featuring a wide range of questions pre-submitted by delegates, as well as an Oxford-style debate regarding legislative and judicial attitudes toward arbitration in India. This event was sponsored by the HKIAC, Herbert Smith Freehills, Fangda & Partners, and Merrill Corporation.
The HKIAC, together with this week’s co-organizers and event sponsors, look forward to repeating the successes of the inaugural Hong Kong Arbitration Week next year.<< More news articles