From the Hong Kong Standard.  The original can be found here.

Mediation seen as key to disputes

Mimi Lau

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The government hopes to promote the use of community mediation services as an alternative to solving disputes in court, the Legislative Council was told Tuesday.

Deputy Solicitor General Stephen Wong Ka-yi told lawmakers the government is considering whether mediation could be applied to incorporated owners and to settle labor disputes.

Mediation services are popular in Britain and Singapore because they are relatively quick and inexpensive, according to a paper submitted by the government during an administration of justice and legal services panel meeting discussing the development of Hong Kong as a legal services center.

Mediation services have yet to be included as part of Legal Aid, although this is now being considered.

Wong said where a person is eligible for Legal Aid, he or she may also seek mediation services.

According to the Hong Kong Mediation Centre, a labor dispute should not take more than 15 hours to solve and would cost about HK$1,000 an hour, the bill for which would be covered by by the parties concerned.

Costs for cases referred by the police, Social Welfare Department and the Home Affairs Department may sometimes be waived.

The Hong Kong Mediation Council provides support for the pilot scheme on family mediation introduced by the Judiciary in 2000. Of the 844 cases so far, 70 percent have been fully settled with partial settlements in another 10 percent of the cases.

Frontier lawmaker Emily Lau Wai- hing expressed concern the public might not perceive mediation services a legitimate resolution for disputes.

In response, Wong said the government would strengthen promotional work stressing the legitimacy of services.

Civic Party lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said it may be inappropriate to forcefully channel litigation to mediation services.