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Hong Kong bilingual legislation and plain language drafting: A communicative approach

  • Clara Ho-yan Chan EMAIL logo
From the journal Multilingua


This paper proposes law drafting techniques, especially in Chinese, that aim to enhance the fluency and readability of Hong Kong bilingual legislation. The study is based on the plain language guide published by the Department of Justice of Hong Kong in 2012, with the goal of helping the current legislation to comply with the guidelines. Using data from seven recently-enacted ordinances, the analysis illustrates drafting techniques for their English and Chinese versions in accordance with the plain language guide published by the Department of Justice. This process is accomplished by suggesting revisions for relevant Chinese sections of legislation and their corresponding English sections according to contrasting aspects of English and Chinese grammars. The discussion will also evaluate the plain language drafting and the overall theoretical and philosophical trend of law drafting in Hong Kong, in light of the “Seven Standards of Textuality” proposed by de Beaugrande and Dressler. This is believed to be the first undertaking to study plain legal language against its official guidelines in the Hong Kong context.

Funding statement: This work was supported by Central Policy Unit, Funder Id: 10.13039/100010777, Grant Number: Public Policy Research Funding Scheme / 2014.A1.00


This research project (Project Number: 2014.A1.004.14D) is funded by the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme from the Central Policy Unit of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. Acknowledgment is made to my dedicated Research Assistants including Miss Vivi Ruowei Xu, Miss Ady Jingjing Liu, Miss Celine Shihong Lin and Mr Anthony Ka-wing Mok, for their data collection work. I am grateful to Professor Marcus Galdia who gave his valuable comments and encouragement to my study. Special thanks go to Mr Paul Wan, former Law Draftsman, and Mr Gilbert Mo, Deputy Law Draftsmen of the Department of Justice, Hong Kong, for their feedback and support to this project.


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Published Online: 2018-05-03
Published in Print: 2018-10-25

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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