2. can searches be conducted?
3. Certificates of good standing – if and how these are being conducted
4. Other searches – how are these being conducted?
5. Court sessions and position (including filings and hearings)
Hong Kong court proceedings have generally been adjourned since 29 January 2020. The Hong Kong Judiciary announced on 22 March 2020 that the adjournment of hearings will be further extended for two weeks from 23 March until 5 April 2020, and be subject to review with regard to the prevailing public health situation. The courts may continue to deal with cases on paper if the presiding Judge or Judicial Officer considers them to be urgent and essential court business. Court hearings that are urgent and essential may be held as scheduled during these two weeks and the parties will be notified in those circumstances.
As at 19 March, Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (“HKIAC”) premises remain operational and accessible for hearings and meetings.
6. travel restrictions
The coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan City, China in December 2019. In January 2020, the Chinese government locked down affected cities, extended the Chinese New Year Holiday and encouraged people to work from home. Large public events were cancelled or postponed, with all schools, offices, factories, shopping malls and restaurants closed.
Hong Kong has also been affected by the coronavirus for more than two months. To minimise the effect of coronavirus, since late January, the Hong Kong government closed down most of its services and buildings and asked civil servants to work from home. This has been followed by most of the private sectors.
In view of a drop of confirmed cases in Hong Kong in early March, a number of government departments resumed to normal public services from early March. However as confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hong Kong have more than doubled in the past week, and most of these patients have a recent travel history, the government has recently ordered civil servants to work from home again and announced that it is closing the borders to all Hong Kong non-residents from 25 March 2020 and banning the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants. Strict quarantine regulations have been imposed for recent arrivals.
7. Other Temporary Regulatory Measures
To align with the special work arrangement to reduce the risk of the spread of the coronavirus in the community, the Hong Kong Companies Registry has been providing only limited counter services to members of the public from early February, and encourages customers to use its electronic services as much as possible. Similar to other government departments, the services of the Registry resumed normal service in early March, but back to limited services from 23 March 2020.
As of 24 March 2020, in respect of VIRGGIN, the electronic filing system of the BVI Financial Services Commission (“BVI FSC”), there have not been changes to its services offered to Hong Kong based users, and users may continue using services such as reserving company names, requesting for certificates of good standing and conducting company searches. The BVI FSC’s Asia representative office in Hong Kong is currently closed to the public until further notice.
8. Implications for economic substance compliance and residency
9. Completion of Transactions
Despite the impact of coronavirus, a number of corporate transactions involving offshore entities continue to proceed and close.
We have frequently been asked to provide offshore law advice on the following:
- Whether it is possible for an offshore entity to hold board and shareholders’ meetings via tele-conference or video-conference, instead of physical meetings?
- Whether it is possible for a director the offshore entity or an authorised signatory to execute resolutions or transaction documents using electronic signatures
- Whether it is possible to execute a deed without affixing the common seal?
- Whether it is possible for a company to keep the original register of members and register of directors outside offshore jurisdictions?
- Whether there has been any extension of time to complete the filing requirements to satisfy the economic substance requirements?