Screened for Fairness: A Tale of Two Hong Kong Enforcement Decisions on Remote Hearings

The Hong Kong Court of First Instance (Court) recently decided due process issues arising from the fairness of remote hearings in not one, but two, judgments. In Sky Power Construction Engineering Ltd v Iraero Airlines JSC [2023] HKCFI 1558 (Sky Power), the respondent argued that the tribunal’s decision to order a fully virtual hearing prejudiced its ability to properly assess the testifying witness’s demeanour. The Court rejected the respondent’s arguments. In Song LiHua v Lee Chee Hon [2023] HKCFI 2540 (Song), the Court held that an arbitrator’s “obvious” failure to concentrate during the remote hearing violated due process.

Despite the opposite outcomes (where one award was enforced and the other was not), there are common takeaways from both judgments. These are especially important given remote hearings are here to stay. For example, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) reported in October 2023 that most of its hearings this year (to date) have involved some virtual element.

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