Serving legal documents in China

Updated: Apr 30, 2018



Serving legal process in the 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 (court) 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.

Chinese 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 exception: foreign governments may legally serve judicial documents on their own nationals 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 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.


The official China service FAQ can be found here.

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