Tackling Bilingual Discrepancies in Statutory Interpretation: Rethinking the Judicial Approach in Hong Kong
This article first examines the Hong Kong courts’ approach towards bilingual discrepancies via a study of the legislative framework and a case trilogy—Chan Fung Lan, Tam Yuk Ha, and Re Madam L—and argues that the “mere translation” reasoning in Hong Kong courts tends to undermine the principle of equal authenticity between the two official texts (i.e. English and Chinese). Second, the present article considers the Canadian approach, which ensures linguistic equality between English and French legislation by strictly disregarding the enactment history of legislation. Finally, upon balancing the constraints and sociopolitical challenges, the article advocates that the judicial approach in Hong Kong should be reshaped to align with the Canadian approach on the grounds of legal coherence and constructive interpretation.
Cite as: Tam, JLL 9 (2020), 67–92, DOI: 10.14762/jll.2020.067
bilingual legislation, statutory interpretation, equal authenticity principle, shared meaning rule, comparative study, Hong Kong and Canadian judicial approaches
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