Are electronic signatures legal in Hong Kong?
E-signatures have been legally recognised in Hong Kong since 2000, since the Electronic Transactions Ordinance Act of 2000 (“ETO”). Giving businesses the option to use them whilst trading.
Electronic signatures are legally recognized in Hong Kong and are provided for in the Electronic Transactions Ordinance (Cap. 553) (“ETO”).
Signable complies with all elements of the ETO of 2000, by providing electronic signatures that meet the following:
- The eSignature is attached to or reasonably associated with the relevant electronic document and the respective signer’s identity
- Through the identification of the signer, the eSignature indicates the signers’s authentication or approval of the information contained in the electronic document
- The electronic method used to attach or associate the signature is reliable and provides a record of all actions undertaken on the electronic document
- Signing parties as well as those in reciept of the eSignature give full consent to the use of this method
Hong Kong’s legal model is a tiered one. This means that Qualified Electronic Signatures are seen as a legal type of e-signature. This doesn’t mean that a non-QES e-Signature can’t be submitted in court, but it will need extra evidence to support it.
Hong Kong operates a Common Law system, which is based on:
- Judicial decisions are seen as binding
- Laws aren’t always of a written structure
- Few provisions are hinted at into the contract, by law
- Generally, everything is permitted that isn’t expressly prohibited by law
Few provisions are implied into a contract under the common law system – so it’s important to cover all the terms governing the relationship between the parties to a contract in the contract itself. This usually means that contracts are typically longer than one in a civil law country.
The Electronic Transaction Ordinance (ETO), (established in 2000) in Hong Kong law highlights that a handwritten signature isn’t always needed for a contract to be considered credible and that contracts can’t be refused for simply being electronic. They’ll usually be seen as such as long as legally able individuals have reached an agreement (this can be by agreeing verbally, electronically or by physically signing something).
The ETO enumerates specific categories for which documents cannot be executed electronically:
- wills, codicils, or any other testamentary documents;
- trusts (other than resulting, implied, or constructive trusts);
- powers of attorney;
- the making, execution or making and execution of any instrument which is required to be stamped or endorsed under the Stamp Duty Ordinance (Cap. 117) other than a contract note to which an agreement under section 5A of that Ordinance relates;
- Government conditions of grant and Government leases;
- deeds, conveyances or other documents or instruments in writing, judgments, and lis pendens referred to in the Land Registration Ordinance (Cap. 128) by which any parcels of ground tenements or premises in Hong Kong may be affected;
- assignments, mortgages or legal charges within the meaning of the Conveyancing and Property Ordinance (Cap. 219) or any other contract relating to or affecting the disposition of immovable property or an interest in immovable property;
- documents affecting a floating charge referred to in section 2A of the Land Registration Ordinance (Cap. 128);
- oaths and affidavits;
- statutory declarations;
- judgments (in addition to those referred to in section 6) or orders of court;
- warrants issued by a court or a magistrate;
- negotiable instruments (but excluding cheques that bear the words “not negotiable”); and
- proceedings before various courts and tribunals of Hong Kong.
The information in the legality guides are for general information purposes only and are not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws governing electronic signature may change quickly, so Signable cannot guarantee that all the information on this site is current or correct. If you have specific legal questions about any of the information on this site, you should consult with a licensed attorney in your area.
Last updated on: January 2020