China and the Hague Service Convention
Add on 20.04.2017

Serving legal process in Mainland China is tricky business, but getting over the hump is a lot easier if you know what you’re doing. Before doing anything, it is important to understand where Chinese law stands on this issue: all judicial documents to be served on a person or entity within the People’s Republic of China must be done according to the procedures set out in the Hague Service Convention of 1965 ("HSC").

What is the Hague Service Convention?

The HSC is a multilateral treaty which has been around for decades, though remains, for some reason, cloaked in an aura of mystery. Aside from China, many major nations are party to this convention, including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, and South Korea. A full list of contracting states can be found here.

Chinese domestic law demands that the HSC be used whenever judicial documents are to be served in China, regardless of the nationality of the recipient. There is only one minor exception: foreign governments may serve judicial documents on their own citizens residing in China directly without recourse to the HSC mechanism.

Is service by mail or email valid in China?

No, only service of original judicial documents via the HSC is valid in Mainland China. Documents mailed directly from abroad to a recipient in China or sent to him by email are improperly served and therefore invalid.

What happens if the HSC rules are not followed?

If the HSC is not followed, service is ineffective. Depending on the situation, improper attempts at service may be unlawful – the Chinese Ministry of Justice encourages anyone who receives judicial documents directly from abroad to report the details of the incident to them.


Hague Service Convention (Full text)

Contracting State Status Table

Chinese Ministry of Justice Hague Service Convention Guide

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A few words about Flora

Flora Huang is a leading Chinese lawyer specializing in corporate and commercial law, international family law and expat divorce. A pioneer in many aspects of transnational legal practice, Flora has served as a China legal commentator in both local and international media and acted as an expert witness in countless international legal proceedings.

Fluent in English and familiar with most major legal systems, Ms. Huang has built-up an enviable network of contacts around the world to ensure that business decisions, litigation, and transactions are informed by up-to-date advice from experienced practitioners wherever the client is or wants to be.

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