World's legal minds to tackle gay wedlock at HK conference

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 September, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong plans to host its first large conference on international litigation co-operation today in a bid to further raise its profile as a legal services hub.

On the agenda is the thorny issue of the international recognition of gay marriages.

Because of the typhoon, the opening ceremony of the Hague Conference on Private International Law may be delayed until this afternoon or tomorrow. Representatives from 27 countries will discuss family law and further co-operation in international litigation. Deputy solicitor general Frank Poon Ying-kwong said the opportunity to raise the city's profile as a legal services hub was a big reason the Department of Justice proposed the city as the host.

'We want people to come to Hong Kong and find that we are party to different instruments which allow them to conduct their litigation or arbitration with the result that the award and judgment could be enforced elsewhere,' he said.

China is a member of the Hague Conference, a permanent inter-governmental organisation. Nine Hague Conventions apply to Hong Kong.

The conference drafts international treaties, known as conventions, ensuring signatories abide by agreed legal standards. In recent years, it has become a leading facilitator of agreements on family law, such as the protection of children who are taken across borders by a parent in dispute with their partner.

The secretary general of the Hague Conference, Hans van Loon, said its work was becoming even more important because of globalisation, although countries still held fast to cultural traditions.

Recognition of non-marital and homosexual unions would be discussed today. Countries that already allowed gay marriage were pushing for their recognition in other states, Mr van Loon said. 'There is strong support [on both sides] ... so we are in a deadlock,' he said.

Mr van Loon said the convention that recognised heterosexual marriage across borders was still not widely accepted. 'We do feel that there comes a point when such a relationship that is valid in various countries but not in others perhaps needs a little support,' Mr van Loon said.

The convention recognising marriage across jurisdictions does not apply to Hong Kong.