News
Publications //
Submitted by // K Bowers, Partner/Solicitor Advocate; M Withington, Partner
11 July 2018

 

ILO Hong Kong Insurance Authority launches consultation on draft enterprise risk management guideline

Click here to see the International Law Office Article

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Press //
Submitted by // C C Tan, Partner
06 July 2018

 

Howse Williams Bowers ("HWB"), a leading Hong Kong independent law firm, advised Dafeng Port Heshun Technology Company Limited ("Dafeng Port Heshun") in relation to the acquisition of Jiangsu Hairong Dafeng Port Petrochemical Product Terminal Company Limited ("Jiangsu Hairong") at a consideration of RMB405.9 million. This transaction constituted a connected and very substantial acquisition to Dafeng Port Heshun under the Hong Kong Listing Rules.

Dafeng Port Heshun is principally engaged in the provision of integrated logistics freight services in Hong Kong, the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta regions and the relevant supporting services. It also provides storage services for petrochemical products. Jiangsu Hairong is involved in the provision of harbour port terminal handling and berthing services in an integrated petrochemical terminal complex, being the only berthing dock for oil vessels in Dafeng Port.

The HWB team was led by corporate partner, Brian Ho. The team had lead responsibility for legal documentation on the acquisition and the resolving of corporate and regulatory issues, communication with the regulators and general transaction management.


About Us

Howse Williams Bowers is an independent law firm which combines the in-depth experience of its lawyers with a forward thinking approach.

Our key practice areas are corporate/commercial and corporate finance; commercial and maritime dispute resolution; clinical negligence and healthcare; insurance, personal injury and professional indemnity insurance; employment; family and matrimonial; property and building management; intellectual property; banking; financial services/corporate regulatory and compliance.

As an independent law firm we are able to minimise legal and commercial conflicts of interest and act for clients in every industry sector. The partners have spent the majority of their careers in Hong Kong and have a detailed understanding of international business and business in Asia.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is intended to be a general guide only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  Please contact pr@hwbhk.com if you have any questions about the article.

 
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News //
Submitted by // K Bowers, Partner / Solicitor Advocate
05 July 2018


Dr. Chan Hin Keung Henry v Apple Daily Ltd and Others [2018] HKDC 219

This recent District Court judgment revisits the applicable legal principles concerning libel  and considers the application of the Reynolds defence for journalists.

Background Facts

During November 2012, Apple Daily published a full-page report concerning a possible pyramid scheme in Hong Kong.

The report contained a number of articles, amongst which one suggested that a local company was promoting a pyramid scheme; another mentioned that there were a number of possibly related companies registered under similar names and at the same address, and that the Plaintiff was a shareholder and director of one of the named companies; and a third article contained generic commentary outlining the features of a pyramid scheme.

The Plaintiff was then the President of the Chiropractors Association.  He issued proceedings against Apple Daily, alleging that that the article which named him was libellous of him when viewed together with the other articles in the same report.

Issues at trial

The case at trial focused on two main issues; firstly, whether the Court would attribute a defamatory meaning to the articles insofar as the Plaintiff was concerned; and secondly, if the Court were to ascribe a defamatory meaning to the articles, whether the Defendant could invoke the defence of Reynolds privilege.

After trial, the Court dismissed the Plaintiff's claim by finding that (1) the article was defamatory of the Plaintiff; but that (2) the Defendant was able successfully to rely on Reynolds privilege as a defence to the publication of the article.

Determining the meaning of the article

The Court considered the natural and ordinary meaning of the article which specifically identified the Plaintiff in order to decide whether it was defamatory of him.  It took a holistic view of the whole report and considered the inferences readers would draw, and held that it was "entirely plausible" for a reasonable reader to gain the impression that there was a connection between the Plaintiff and the pyramid scheme.

In the Court's analysis, readers could have attributed a number of meanings to the articles (when read together) including the following:-

i) the Plaintiff knowingly participated in the pyramid scheme (this was the defamatory meaning as pleaded by the Plaintiff) ("Level One Meaning");

ii) there were reasonable grounds to suspect such participation ("Level Two Meaning");

iii) there were grounds to investigate if there was such participation ("Level Three Meaning"); or

iv) there was no culpable connection between the Plaintiff and the pyramid scheme ("Level Four Meaning").

The Court decided that the "Level Two Meaning" was the right meaning as the article contained reasonable grounds for one to suspect that there was a "nefarious connection" between the Plaintiff and the pyramid scheme and that he knowingly participated in it. The article was therefore found to be libellous of the Plaintiff.

Reynolds privilege - a balancing exercise by the Court

Having established the defamatory nature of the article, the Court had to consider whether the Defendant could rely on the defence of Reynolds privilege. In order for Reynolds privilege to be successfully invoked, the Court had to consider whether:-

i) the subject-matter of the publication was of sufficient public interest;

ii) it was justifiable to include the particular material complained of; and

iii) the publisher had met the standards of responsible journalism.

Application of Reynolds privilege to the present case

The Court undertook a balancing exercise and considered the reasonableness of the Defendant's conduct in including the defamatory statement in the article. The Defendant's reference to the Plaintiff was found to be justifiable because:-

i) the emergence and existence of pyramid schemes was a matter of public interest, and so was the identity of persons who may be involved in such schemes in Hong Kong;

ii) it was part of the story for the Defendant to explain the nature of pyramid schemes and disclosing connected persons ; and

iii) references to the Plaintiff in the article were made in a "balanced and matter-of-fact fashion".

Although the Defendant's news editor and reporter were found not to have verified the defamatory statements made about the Plaintiff in the articles, they were found to have presented facts in an objective manner. It was therefore held that they had conducted themselves as responsible journalists.  Based on this finding, the Defendant was found to have successfully invoked the Reynolds defence, and the Plaintiff's claim was dismissed.

Commentary

This case is a good illustration of the Court's balancing exercise between public interest and a subject person's interest in the context of responsible journalism.

Journalists should take note from this Judgment that the applicability of the Reynolds defence is a delicate balancing exercise with responsible journalism and fair reposting on matters of public interest at its heart.

 

About Us

Howse Williams Bowers is an independent law firm which combines the in-depth experience of its lawyers with a forward thinking approach.

Our key practice areas are corporate/commercial and corporate finance; commercial and maritime dispute resolution; clinical negligence and healthcare; insurance, personal injury and professional indemnity insurance; employment; family and matrimonial; property and building management; banking; financial services/corporate regulatory and compliance.

As an independent law firm we are able to minimise legal and commercial conflicts of interest and act for clients in every industry sector. The partners have spent the majority of their careers in Hong Kong and have a detailed understanding of international business and business in Asia.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is intended to be a general guide only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  Please contact pr@hwbhk.com if you have any questions about the article.

 
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News //
Submitted by // K Bowers, Partner / Solicitor Advocate
04 July 2018


Levy Collection under Property Management Services Ordinance (Cap. 626)

Background

This Alert is a follow-up to HWB's January 2017 Property and Building Management Law Alert. To briefly recap, the Property Management Services Ordinance ("Ordinance") was passed during May 2017 to monitor the operation of property management companies ("PMCs") and practitioners.

The main changes brought about by the enactment of the Ordinance include (among other things) the establishment of the Property Management Services Authority ("PMSA") and a new 'licencing' system for PMCs. These changes were implemented to assist PMCs achieve an appropriate industry standard, given the trend of the professionalization of property management services.

Part 8 of the Ordinance

Part 8 of the Ordinance and the Property Management Services (Levy) Regulation came into operation on 1 July 2018.

This part of the Ordinance refers to a levy which is payable for each leviable instrument. A leviable instrument is a conveyance on sale chargeable with stamp duty. Generally, the purchaser or the transferee is liable to pay the levy. Any person with a vested interest in the immovable property should have the obligation to pay the levy. In situations where there is more than one transferee, they are jointly and severally liable to pay the levy.

Levy and consequence of late payment

The levy payable for a leviable instrument is fixed at HK$350, to be paid within 30 days after the instrument is executed. The levy will be collected on behalf of the PMSA by the Stamp Office of the Inland Revenue Department, when stamp duty is submitted for stamping.

Non-payment or late payment of the levy will attract penalties under sections 57 and 58 of the Ordinance. The penalty is two times the levy payable if late payment is made within one month of the deadline; four times the levy payable for non-payment / late payment of not more than two months from the deadline. If the outstanding levy is not settled within four months of the deadline, the PMSA can register a Certificate in the Land Registry against any premises or land in respect of which the levy and penalty arose in accordance with section 59 of the Ordinance.

Upon registration of the Certificate, the levy and penalty are recoverable from a person who appears from the Land Register to be the owner of the premises or land. The Certificate also constitutes a legal charge on the premises or land. A properly registered Certificate has priority starting from the day after the date of its registration. The PMSA may also recover the outstanding amount of any levy or penalty payable as a civil debt under section 60 of the Ordinance.

Exemptions

Under the Property Management Services (Levy) Regulation, a person is not liable to pay a levy under Part 8 of the Ordinance if that person is not liable to pay stamp duty in respect of a leviable instrument under sections 41 or 41(3) of the Stamp Duty Ordinance.

Accordingly, the government and any incorporated public officer or person acting in his capacity as a public officer shall not be liable for payment of a levy under Part 8 of the Ordinance. This exemption does not apply to any public officer acting in his capacity as Official Administrator, Official Receiver, Official Trustee or liquidator, or any public officer acting under any Order of any Court.

With the first of many key sections of the Ordinance coming into operation, building managers should keep themselves updated as to any guidelines issued by the PMSA to ensure they stay on top of the changes.
 

About Us

Howse Williams Bowers is an independent law firm which combines the in-depth experience of its lawyers with a forward thinking approach.

Our key practice areas are corporate/commercial and corporate finance; commercial and maritime dispute resolution; clinical negligence and healthcare; insurance, personal injury and professional indemnity insurance; employment; family and matrimonial; property and building management; banking; financial services/corporate regulatory and compliance.

As an independent law firm we are able to minimise legal and commercial conflicts of interest and act for clients in every industry sector. The partners have spent the majority of their careers in Hong Kong and have a detailed understanding of international business and business in Asia.

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