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Allen & Overy releases report entitled “The Recognition and Treatment of Relationships under Hong Kong Law”


26 June 2019

Allen & Overy has today released a report, commissioned by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in Hong Kong, regarding the recognition and treatment of relationships under Hong Kong law (the report).
The EOC’s 2016 Discrimination Law Review highlighted that Hong Kong’s marital and family status anti-discrimination laws only protect those who are recognised as married by Hong Kong law. Allen & Overy’s report builds upon that review, by identifying other areas of Hong Kong law in which an individual’s relationship status impacts their legal rights and obligations.
“The EOC commends the professional efforts put up by Allen & Overy in conducting the study and producing the report,” said Mr. Ricky Chu Man-kin, Chairperson of the EOC. “The report is excellently informative and raises a whole set of issues regarding the recognition and treatment of relationships under Hong Kong Law. It has been uploaded on the EOC official website today as it is a very valuable reference for the EOC and we would study the issues raised in the report in our assessment of discrimination issues in the relevant areas in future. ”
Partner Matt Bower comments: “This report provides an unprecedented review of legislation in Hong Kong, identifying differential treatment of individuals between those in opposite-sex marriages and those in alternative relationships, such as same-sex marriages as well as opposite or same-sex cohabiting couples and civil partners.”
Allen & Overy’s report analyses 21 areas of Hong Kong law and considers examples of differential treatment evident within each. The examples expand across in all aspects of daily life, from the moment a relationship is formed to the end of life. For example:
  • opposite-sex spouses can apply for public rental housing as an “ordinary family” while those in an alternative relationship are not, and are therefore subject to a longer waiting time;
  • opposite-sex spouses can access reproductive technology while couples in alternative relationships cannot; and
  • opposite-sex spouses are entitled to succeed to the other’s estate if one of them dies without a will, while couples in alternative relationships cannot.
The failure to recognise alternative relationships also impairs the intended operation of certain laws, making it more difficult for relevant authorities to enforce certain criminal laws, for example, while less protection is extended to the creditors of a bankrupt in an alternative relationship compared to the protection afforded to creditors of a bankrupt in an opposite-sex marriage.
Vicki Liu, Hong Kong managing partner comments: “We are very grateful to the Equal Opportunities Commission for commissioning this substantial and timely piece of research. We hope that the report will allow local stakeholder groups and other institutions to engage in discussion as to whether particular areas of law may benefit from reform and, if so, how reform may be pursued.”
Please click here to access the report and a video which summarise the findings.
For further information, please contact Madhu Mirpuri ( and Helen Fifield ( on +852 2974 7000



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