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Harassment victims can now apply for court injunction, leading lawyer says

13 March 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Harris' article gives hope to migrant workers who suffer harassment by various people

Migrant domestic workers who are helplessly suffering from harassment by other people may now be able to apply for an injunction from Hong Kong courts as long as they can support their application with credible evidence.

This is according to a veteran barrister who has shed light on this legal remedy in his article, “Anti-harassment injunctions,” in the January 2021 issue of the journal “Hong Kong Lawyer.” 

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Paul Harris, SC, said applicants could include those targeted by various forms of harassment such as cyber bullying, stalking, “doxing” (or exposing somebody’s personal details) and intimidation on social media. 

“Harassment by a debt collector, a landlord, a former business associate, or indeed a present or former spouse, is tackled legally by application for an interlocutory injunction restraining the defendant from the conduct described in the injunction order,” wrote Harris.

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Harris, who currently chairs the Hong Kong Bar Association, is a public law and human rights specialist who has considerable experience in civil litigation in Hong Kong and in London.

The discussion of this legal remedy comes at an opportune time for the estimated 370,000 foreign domestic helpers in the city, many of whom are subjected to harassment by various people, including debt collectors, long-time enemies and former lovers seeking revenge.


One such victim is a Filipina helper who sought help from the police recently after she was allegedly harassed, shamed, blackmailed and bullied on cyberspace and in person by her former boyfriend, an Indian torture claimant.

Harris said harassment victims can apply for an injunction supported by an affidavit giving detailed evidence of the alleged acts. It should be accompanied by a draft of the order that the victim is seeking  from the court.


He suggested an urgent hearing be requested as failure to do this may lead the court to conclude the problem is not as serious as alleged and could refuse the relief sought. But the chances of securing a favorable judgment are now better than before.

“There used to be legal difficulties in relation to securing an interlocutory injunction specifically against harassment but these have been greatly reduced by case-law developments in recent years,” Harris said.


He said the applicant must have a cause of action against the person who is the target of the injunction. 

There is no legal difficulty if the harassment involves assault or trespass, but it could be a problem if there was no such incident, and the act complained of was done by a person with whom the victim had no contractual relationship.


He said the harassment could be in the form of nuisance phone calls, threats, embarrassing a person at their place of work to put pressure on him, falsely ordering goods or services in a person’s name, stalking and abuse of personal information, such as “doxing.”

Nuisance calls can give rise to a court injunction against the party behind them 

Some of these forms of harassment breach personal privacy, which is protected under article 14 of the Bill of Rights, said Harris. Thus, it would be possible for a victim to bring a judicial review against the government's failure to adequately protect her or his rights.

Harris said while England’s Protection from Harassment Act 1997 “introduced both a crime of harassment and a statutory tort of harassment with provision for the grant of injunctions to prevent it,” Hong Kong does not have any equivalent legislation.

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Nevertheless, Hong Kong courts have developed a common law tort of harassment to meet the gap in law that would otherwise exist.

“It can therefore now safely be said that the tort of harassment exists at least to the extent that it is available to as a basis for the grant of an interlocutory injunction. There is therefore now a remedy for all forms of harassment,” Harris said.

But he said the court will only grant an injunction if the application is supported by credible evidence. Thus, where the harassment consists of a large number of repetitious acts, the victim should keep a diary of these events as proof and attach this as an exhibit to the affidavit. 

For harassment in the form of nuisance phone calls, the victim’s phone billing records should be obtained and produced. If it was a criminal damage, criminal intimidation or assault, a police report should be made, and the record of the police report shown.

Those who might need help in taking legal action could get in touch with the Hong Kong Law Society through its website: or call its hotlline: 8200 8002.    



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