An automatic discharge for a bankrupt under the Hong Kong bankruptcy law is newly introduced in 1997. It means that a bankrupt can get out of restrictions and to have a “fresh start”. No formal application or hearing at court is needed for discharge to be granted. The discharge system carries both carrots and sticks. That is to say, if the bankrupt does not behave well, an objection to that discharge may be applied by trustee. One of the misbehaviours is absconding which can cause difficulty in administration. As the delay in discharge is limited to 8 years from the date of the bankruptcy order, absconding bankrupt can still get out of the restrictions after 8 years.
The Legislative Council passed the Bankruptcy (Amendment) Bill 2015 on 17 March 2016. The bill replaces the “abscondee regime” with arrangements whereby the trustee in bankruptcy may apply to the court for an order to, in effect, stop the bankruptcy period from commencing to run (“non-commencement order”) where a bankrupt has failed to show up for the initial interview or has failed to provide all the information about his or her affairs, assets etc. as the trustee may reasonable require. The new “non-commencement regime” will come into effect on 1 November 2016.