Legal Translation and Bilingual Law Drafting in Hong Kong: Challenges and Interactions in Chinese Regions, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Legal Translation and Bilingual Law Drafting in Hong Kong

Challenges and Interactions in Chinese Regions, 1st Edition

By Clara Ho-yan Chan


192 pages | 3 B/W Illus.

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Legal Translation and Bilingual Law Drafting in Hong Kong presents a systematic account from a cross disciplinary perspective of the activities of legal translation and bilingual law drafting in the bilingual international city of Hong Kong and its interaction with Mainland China and Taiwan in the use of legal terminology.

The study examines the challenges posed to English-Chinese translation in the past three decades by elaborate drafting and terminological equivalence, and offers educational and research solutions. Its primary goals are to create legal Chinese that naturally accommodates common law concepts and statutes from the English legal system and to reconcile Chinese legal terms from the different legal systems adopted by Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan. The new directions in legal translation and bilingual law drafting in Hong Kong will have implications for other Chinese regions and for the world.

The book is intended for scholars, researchers, teachers and students of legal translation and legal linguistics, legal translators, lawyers and legal practitioners who are engaged in translation, as well as all persons who are interested in legal language and legal translation.


This book gives a comprehensive and systematic account of the multifaceted issues of legal translation and bilingual law drafting in the context of Hong Kong’s transformation from a unilingual to a bilingual legal system. It focuses on the variety of challenges confronting such transformation from the micro perspectives of language and law to the macro perspectives of education and research. As a legal translator and translation teacher myself, I have learnt a lot from it and would wholeheartedly recommend it as a must-read for anyone who wants to have a clear understanding of legal translation.

--- SIN King-kui, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, UOW College of Hong Kong

The development of a bilingual legal system in Hong Kong since the 1980s has posed important challenges for legal translation and legal drafting. This book provides a comprehensive study of the subject, drawing on the experience of mainland China and Taiwan in the use of the Chinese language. I think it is an extremely useful book for both general readers interested in the use of Chinese in Hong Kong law, as well as students and practitioners of English-Chinese legal translation and drafting.

--- Professor Albert H.Y. Chen, Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong

The importance of language in the context of law hardly requires elaboration. Hong Kong the only common law jurisdiction where legislation is enacted in both Chinese and English. Legislation aside, legal translation plays an important role in enhancing access to justice in Hong Kong. Viewed thus, his book by Professor Clara Chan is a helpful addition to the literature and research in this area, and will be an indispensable addition to the bookshelf of those interested in law and language.

--- Rimsky Yuen, GBM, SC, JP, Barrister — Senior Counsel

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

List of tables and figures




Chapter 1 Introduction: About this book

  1. Background and purpose

    1. Legal translation in Modern China
    2. Legal translation in Hong Kong

  1. Review and framework

    1. Hong Kong: Translation of English laws and bilingual law drafting for the 1997 change of sovereignty
    2. Mainland China and Taiwan: Legal globalisation

  1. Terminology

    1. Legal Chinese
    2. Chinese legal terminology
    3. Legal translation

  1. Organisation and technicalities

    1. Structure and limitations
    2. Romanisation and convention


Chapter 2 Challenges in legal translation: A language perspective

    1. Europeanisation of Chinese

    1. Lexical changes
    2. Morpho-syntactic changes
      1. Affixation
      2. Conjunctions
      3. Pronouns
      4. Prenominal modifiers and embedding levels
      5. Passive voice
      6. Other types of syntactic change

    1. Europeanisation of legal Chinese

    1. Legislation
      1. Lexicon
      2. Syntax

    2. Judgments
    3. Legal documents
    4. Legal translation textbook
    5. Responses from different sectors


Chapter 3 Challenges in legal translation: A legal perspective

    1. ‘Equivalence’ in Hong Kong bilingual legal terminology
    2. Equivalence in Chinese legal terminology in three Chinese regions

    1. Five translation categories in terms of equivalence

      1. Category 1 (near equivalents) – One or more similar foreign source term(s) with same renditions of same/similar meaning
      2. Category 2 (near equivalents) – One or more similar foreign source term(s) with different renditions of same/similar meaning
      3. Category 3 (partial or non-equivalents) – One or more similar foreign source term with different renditions of different meaning
      4. Category 4 (partial or non-equivalents) - Different foreign source terms with different renditions of different meanings (partial or non-equivalents)
      5. Category 5 (non-equivalents) – Mistranslation

  1. Case study of terminology in international agreements: Intellectual property rights in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong

    1. Introduction and methodology
    2. ‘Layout-design’, its Chinese translations and measurement of equivalence (waiguan sheji (外觀設計) vs. dianlu butu (電路布局(拓樸圖)) vs. butu sheji (布圖設計 (拓樸圖))
    3. Summary and conclusion

  1. Concluding remarks


Chapter 4 Education in meeting challenges

  1. Education and training: Theory and practice

  1. Broad and balanced approach: First lecture on legal translation

    1. A broad approach: Legal systems, legal traditions and legal language
    2. A balanced approach: Views on Chinese legal system

  1. Interdisciplinary approach: Language and law

    1. Case study: A legal knowledge-based translation course for Hong Kong translation students
      1. Background and aims
      2. Design and contents
      3. Feedback and reflections

    2. Case study: An English-Chinese glossary of terminology for Hong Kong law students
      1. Background and aims
      2. Design and contents
      3. Feedback and reflections

    3. Master’s programmes on language and law in three regions

  1. Training for legal professionals and legal translators
    1. Government law drafters
    2. A mini survey: Use of Chinese by lawyers and legal translators

  2. Concluding remarks

Chapter 5 Research in meeting challenges

  1. Major books and bilingual legal resources

    1. Research books

    1. Reference books

  1. Two potential research areas

    1. Enhancing language quality for bilingual legislation and judgments
    2. 2.1.1 Co-drafting of bilingual legislation: Plain language drafting

      2.1.2 Translation of judgments: Chinese proficiency and language style

    3. Comparative study of legal terminology and legal glossary compilation

      1. Relations with comparative law and existing works
      2. Framework for comparison


Chapter 6 Conclusion: Trends and Prospects

  1. Training of practitioners with language and law skills: Status of legal translation

  1. Research work on terminology comparison: ‘Universal’ translation methods

  1. Epilogue: A new era with new visions

    1. Past experience

    1. Development for the future


About the Author

Clara Ho-yan Chan is an Associate Professor of the School of Humanities and Social Science, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen. Her research interests focus on language and law, especially legal translation, legal terminology and bilingual law drafting.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Chinese Translation

Routledge Studies in Chinese Translation

by Chris Shei (general editor)

Description of the series

Routledge Studies in Chinese Translation encompasses scholarly works on every possible translation activity and theory involving the use of Chinese language. At a time when Western translation studies has reached its maturity and scholars are looking for inspiration from elsewhere in the world where the current descriptive work has not covered, the field of Chinese translation offers the greatest potential for discovery of new frontier and formulation of new theories. This series will include monographs and edited works addressing the issues of Chinese translation from linguistic, literary, semiotic, cognitive, cultural, philosophical, sociological, political, socio-economic, educational and technological points of view. In the next few decades, Routledge Studies in Chinese Translation will put together an important knowledge base for Chinese and Westerner researchers on translation studies, as well as for scholars from other disciplines (literature, media studies, political science, machine translation and language technology, the psychology of translation, bilingualism… to name just a few) to draw on for essential information and further research that is based on or relevant to Chinese translation.

Strands of book titles to be included in the series (examples only, non-exhaustive)

  • Chinese linguistics and Chinese translation
  • Chinese literary translation
  • Chinese media studies and translation
  • Chinese politics and translation
  • Chinese philosophy / history / religion and Chinese translation
  • Chinese translation theories
  • The psychology of Chinese translation
  • Machine translation and language technology for Chinese translation
  • Computer aided Chinese translation
  • Chinese translation on mobile device
  • Business / technical / administrative / legal Chinese translation
  • Translation of traditional Chinese medicine

Author guidelines

If you are interested in publishing a monograph or an edited piece under this series, please get in touch with Chris Shei at [email protected] or [email protected] Each book in this series is expected to be 80000 words in length investigating an issue or exploring an area of Chinese translation. Extensive help will be provided to novice and mid-career authors in terms of topic discussion and book structuring, as well as procedural guidance from the writing of book proposal, replying to reviewers’ comments, timeline planning, submission and proofreading and so on. Publishing with a series is a good way to present your first or subsequent scholarly work and to get your name known to the field with the benefits of affiliating your book to a renowned publisher and sharing the established reputation of the editorial board and a line of specifically focused works.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings: