July 11, 2022
The Supreme Court has issued judgment in Deng v Zheng, which addressed how the courts should approach litigation involving one or more parties with a different cultural background to that of the judge, including the use of expert evidence about the social and cultural framework the parties may have been operating within.
The case involved a dispute between two Chinese business-people. The way these parties approached their dealings with one another was consistent with “guānxi”, a multi-facetted term referring to Chinese social and cultural norms that might result in a particular way of doing business including, for example, a tendency to rely on handshakes and interpersonal connections as opposed to formal written agreements.
Chambers members, Jane Anderson QC and Yvonne Mortimer-Wang together with Mai Chen appeared as interveners on behalf of the Law Society. The Law Society’s submissions provided a framework for how the courts should approach cases involving a significant cultural dimension including, but not limited to, Chinese guānxi.
The Supreme Court’s judgment will act as a guide for courts in future cases including the use of expert evidence where diverse cultural considerations are at play (with the exception of tikanga Māori, which the Supreme Court recognised as raising special legal and historical issues).
A copy of the Supreme Court’s judgment in Deng v Zheng is available here.
See also the Supreme Court’s Press Release about the decision here.