Corporate Governance and the Protection of Minority Shareholders in Hong Kong and China: A Comparative Perspective
Wong, Hang Shing
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The protection of minority shareholders is one of the important topics in company law. The two major oppression of minority shareholders are from the management and the majority shareholders. In this thesis, I seek to study the two oppression and the minority protection under the company law in Hong Kong and China. This thesis discusses: (i) Whether the Hong Kong common law system provides better protection to minority shareholders than is found in the Chinese civil law system? (ii) Whether the high degree of concentrated corporate ownership leads to the poor protection of minority shareholders in Hong Kong and China? (iii) What are the transplantation effects of foreign company laws on the protection of minority shareholders in Hong Kong and China? (iv) Whether the existing legal remedies to minority shareholders in Hong Kong and China are adequate? and (v) What are the problems of minority shareholders protection in Hong Kong and China? A comparative study of corporate governance and the protection of minority shareholders in Hong Kong and China is to identify the similarities and differences in the two systems for the purposes of legal reform. This thesis argues that mere adoption of Hong Kong common law system according to the legal origin theory could not improve corporate governance and minority shareholders protection in China; Chinese corporate governance and minority shareholders protection reform must include both legislative and structural aspects and these aspects are shaped by the initial paths according to the path dependence theory. This thesis argues that the high concentration of corporate ownership does not necessarily lead to poor legal protection of shareholders in Hong Kong, and the weak protection of minority shareholders in China is not due to its civil law origin but its structures relating to the rule of law principle. This thesis examines the theoretical debates between the legal origin theory and the path dependence theory and applies them to Hong Kong and China. This thesis contends that the basic company law has already achieved a high degree of uniformity in Hong Kong and China and the base of divergence between Hong Kong and China is in the structural and institutional differences. This thesis argues that the success of legal transplantation and minority protection in Hong Kong is dependent upon its initial structures which have been locked-in to the current structures. This thesis concludes that the issues of minority shareholders protection in China are in its socialist market economy, state intervening policy, public ownership, relation-based tradition, rule by law culture, corruption practices, dominant role of the CCP and non-independent judiciary; and the Chinese minority protection reform, in a broader sense, involves not only the legislative issue but also the structural issues which relate to the rule of law principle. This thesis proposes that the transplantation of foreign company law will not necessarily improve the protection of minority shareholders and hence the corporate governance in China. This thesis also confirms that direct transplantation of foreign law is not always suitable for countries with less developed structures. These findings are also relevant to other emerging economies and developing countries in understanding the limitations on the use of foreign law to improve corporate governance and the protection of minority shareholders.
PhD in Legal Practice