On 11 July 2023, the Hong Kong Bar Association and UNIDROIT (the Institute for the Unification of Private Law) co-hosted a webinar entitled Principles on Digital Assets and Private Law: Understanding Crypto Assets Through Comparative Law. Kevin Lau from Des Voeux Chambers moderated this session, with speakers including Willam Brydie-Watson (UNIDROIT Senior Legal Officer) and Hamza Hameed (UNIDROIT Legal Consultant).
The panel introduced UNIDROIT’s role and working methodology, and presented an overview of UNIDROIT’s Principles on Digital Assets and Private Law 2 . This is a soft law instrument proposing international best practices for private law treatment of digital assets, including on topical issues such as whether digital assets are property, applicable choice of law rules for issues concerning digital assets, the treatment of such assets in insolvency, and “linked” assets involving both digital and tangible components such as “tokenized” commodities.
The UNIDROIT Principles, designed to guide policy-making and law reform concerning digital assets, may influence ongoing legal developments in Hong Kong in this field: for example, see Re Gatecoin Limited  2 HKLRD 1079 (decision dated 31 March 2023, where Madam Justice Linda Chan found that cryptocurrency can be “property”, can be held in trust and discussed its treatment in insolvency).
UNIDROIT is an international organization based in Rome, Italy, with a mandate to produce international legal instruments, such as treaties and model laws, to harmonise and set standards for different fields of private law, including international commercial law in particular. Since earlier this year, Kevin has been working in Rome on secondment as a Legal Officer at UNIDROIT via the Department of Justice’s Secondment Programme. The six-month Secondment Programmes to various international legal organisations are open to private practitioners in Hong Kong. This webinar was organised as part of UNIDROIT’s ongoing efforts to increase its visibility in the Asia-Pacific region.
For more details on UNIDROIT’s Principles on Digital Assets and Private Law, please see: https://www.unidroit.org/work-in-progress/digital-assets-and-private-law/
For more details on DoJ’s Secondment Programme, please refer to https://www.doj.gov.hk/en/miscellaneous/secondment_programmes_to_international_organisations.html