An apology can no longer be used in court against the one saying sorry.
In a 46 to 2 vote, the Legislative Council on Thursday passed the Apology Bill, making Hong Kong the first jurisdiction in Asia to enact a law of its kind, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Under the new law, which was formulated based on the recommendations made by the Steering Committee on Mediation, saying sorry, whether it is done in oral or written form or by conduct expressing regret, sympathy or benevolence, does not constitute admission of liability, nor can it be admitted as evidence in civil proceedings under general circumstances.
Its main objective is to promote and encourage the making of timely apologies in order to facilitate the amicable resolution of disputes.
The law also applies to the government, but it is not applicable to criminal charges or some exceptional proceedings.
It provides that an apology does not void or otherwise affect any insurance coverage.
Meanwhile, some lawmakers expressed concerns that the law grants the court discretionary power, meaning it may still admit the words used in an apology as evidence in the proceedings.
The Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen said such concerns are unnecessary because the law stipulates that a court must take public interest and fairness into consideration when exercising discretion, adding that there could be a risk of unconstitutionality should the power be taken away.
Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing welcomed the legislation, saying it can encourage government departments and public institutions to take the initiative to apologize when necessary, thereby soothing the sentiments of aggrieved citizens as well as restoring social cohesion.
Data from the Office of the Ombudsman shows that more than 90 percent of organizations being complained about apologized only after the office intervened during the year ended in March.
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