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Government Structure
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the Legislative Council, the consent of the Chief
of the People’s Republic of China is headed by the Chief Executive, and the approval by the NPCSC.
Executive. To attain the ultimate aim of selecting the
He is advised on major policy decisions by the Chief Executive by universal suffrage provided for in
Executive Council. the Basic Law, after conducting two rounds of extensive
The HKSAR has a two-tier system of representative and systematic public consultations which lasted for
government. At the central level is the Legislative Council a total of seven months, the HKSAR Government
which legislates, approves public expenditure and put forward a package of proposals for the method
monitors the performance of the Administration. At the for selecting the Chief Executive by universal
district level, 18 district councils advise on the suffrage. The proposals are constitutionally in
implementation of policies in their respective areas. order, lawful, reasonable and rational. On 18 June
The Administration, the executive arm of the 2015, the motion moved by the HKSAR Government
Government, is organised into the Government to amend the method for the selection of the Chief
Secretariat and departments. Government Secretariat Executive was vetoed by the Legislative Council.
Bureaux formulate policies and initiate legislative The method for selecting the fourth-term Chief Executive
proposals. Departments implement laws and policies and in 2012 will continue to be adopted to select the
provide direct services to the community. fifth-term Chief Executive in 2017, i.e., the Chief
The HKSAR has an independent Judiciary. It is Executive is to be elected by a 1 200-member Election
responsible for the administration of justice and the Committee.
adjudication of cases in accordance with laws.
The systems practised in Hong Kong are prescribed Powers and functions of the Chief Executive: The
by the Basic Law, the constitutional document of the Chief Executive leads the Government of the HKSAR,
HKSAR which came into effect upon its establishment on decides on government policies and issues executive
July 1, 1997. orders. He is responsible for the implementation of the
Basic Law and other laws which, in accordance with the
THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE Basic Law, apply in the HKSAR.
The Basic Law stipulates that the Chief Executive shall He signs bills passed by the Legislative Council and
be elected by a broadly representative Election promulgates laws. He also signs budgets passed by the
Committee in accordance with the Basic Law and Legislative Council and reports the budgets and final
appointed by the Central People's Government. The accounts to the Central People’s Government for record.
method for selecting the Chief Executive is to be The Chief Executive nominates and reports to the
specified in the light of actual situation in the HKSAR and Central People’s Government for appointment of the
in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly principal officials of the HKSAR, and recommends their
progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief removal. He appoints or removes judges of the courts
Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a and holders of public office in accordance with legal
broadly representative nominating committee in procedures.
accordance with democratic procedures. He implements the directives issued by the Central
The fourth-term Chief Executive Election was held People’s Government in respect of the relevant matters
on March 25, 2012. Mr C Y Leung was returned and was provided for in the Basic Law and conducts, on behalf of
formally appointed by the Central People’s Government the HKSAR Government, external affairs and other
as the fourth-term Chief Executive on March 28, 2012, affairs as authorised by the Central Authorities.
with his term of office commencing on July 1, 2012. The Chief Executive approves the introduction
According to the Basic Law and the relevant of motions regarding revenues or expenditure
Interpretation of the Standing Committee of the National to the Legislative Council. He also decides, in the
People’s Congress (NPCSC), any amendments to the light of security and vital public interests,
method for selecting the Chief Executive must go through whether government officials or other personnel
the “Five-step” constitutional process, i.e., the making of in charge of government affairs should testify or
a report by the Chief Executive to the NPCSC, the give evidence before the Legislative Council or
determination by the NPCSC whether to make its committees. His other functions include pardoning
amendments to the method of selection; the of persons convicted of criminal offences or commuting
endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all the Members their penalties and handling of petitions and complaints.

In 2012. Expenditure of public funds for on September 9. Aside from increasing the number of geographical dissolving the Legislative Council. The motion put by the HKSAR Government Purview of the Executive Council: The Executive concerning the amendment to the method for the Council normally meets once a week. the election of all the According to the Basic Law. 2014 power to make subsidiary legislation under a number of that the formation method of the fifth term Legislative ordinances passed by the Legislative Council. he election. amend or repeal laws in Legislative Council is as follows. At Committee present. 2004) (2004. term Fourth Term by the Government.EXECUTIVE COUNCIL functional Appointment and Removal of Executive Council constituencies Members: Members of the Executive Council of the HKSAR are appointed by the Chief Executive from (c) returned by 10 6 — — among the principal officials of the executive authorities. If the Chief Executive does not voter can have two votes in the 2012 Legislative Council accept a majority opinion of the Executive Council. removal and disciplining of officials and constituency seats in 2012 is nominated by elected the adoption of measures in emergencies. the five new functional the appointment. it is introduced into the Legislative Council. 2000) (2000. for functional constituency. 2012. 2010. (b) returned by 30 30 30 35 ● If a motion initiated jointly by one-fourth of all . The Chief formation of the Legislative Council in 2012 was passed Executive presides over its meetings. its formation shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the HKSAR and in accordance with the Functions and Powers of the Legislative Council: As principle of gradual and orderly progress. The President of the Legislative Council is approved by the Legislative Council. the Legislative Council of the members of the Legislative Council may be implemented HKSAR shall be constituted by election. who then registered voters who do not have a right to vote in makes a decision. 2012. The method for by the method of universal suffrage. on a one-person- individually. the important policy decisions. Council will continue to apply to the sixth term Legislative Council in 2016. After the election of the Chief LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL Executive by universal suffrage. and the other shall put the specific reasons on record. elections ● To receive and handle complaints from Hong Kong residents. The Executive elected by and from among the members of the Council also advises upon all principal legislation before Legislative Council. The term of the office of the policies decided by the Chief Executive in consultation Legislative Council is four years which began on October with the Executive Council is subject to such funds being 1. geographical ● To endorse the appointment and removal of constituencies the judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief through direct Judge of the High Court. reported to the NPCSC for the record. Under this proposal. Government. method for the formation of the Legislative Council and its procedures for voting on bills and motions after 2007 Terms of Office of Executive Council Members: must be made with the endorsement of a two-thirds Members hold office for a period no longer than the majority of all the members of the Legislative Council and expiry of the term of office of the Chief Executive who the consent of the Chief Executive. the Legislative aim is the election of all the members of the Legislative Council of the HKSAR exercises the following powers Council by universal suffrage. and they shall be appoints them. Members tender their advice traditional functional constituencies. He is required by by a two-thirds majority of all the Members of the the Basic Law to consult the council before making Legislative Council on June 25. District Council members. making subordinate legislation or to 70. introducing bills into the number of Legislative Council seats s increased from 60 Legislative Council. but the council’s conclusions are presented one-vote basis. the membership of the Executive Council comprises the 15 Principal Officials under the 60 60 60 70 Accountability System and 15 non-official Members. Terms (2012. and has the The NPCSC adopted a decision on August 31. 2016) ● To receive and debate the policy addresses of 2008 the Chief Executive. The ultimate provided for in Article 73 of the Basic Law. accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and legal procedures. and functions: The composition of the first to fifth terms of the ● To enact. one for geographical constituency. and ● To raise questions on the work of the 2008. 2012) ● To debate any issue concerning public (a) returned by 20 24 30 35 interests. The Executive Council advises the Chief Executive The fifth term Legislative Council election was held on all important policies. ● To approve taxation and public expenditure. but not for example on constituency seats by five. They are elected by all The council advises the Chief Executive. the Election members of the Legislative Council and public figures. First term Second Third & Fifth ● To examine and approve budgets introduced Membership (1998. Members' appointment or removal is decided by the The Basic Law provides that any amendments to the Chief Executive. every registered as collective decisions.

During the course of these All council meetings are open to the public and are discussions. chambers of commerce and trade associations. at which is brought back to the council for debate. Members of the Legislative Council perform the important the bill will be published in the Gazette and introduced roles of scrutinising bills. questions. which sets out the Government’s As soon as the above process is completed. Appropriation Bill. the formulation of Chamber of the Legislative Council Building to conduct legislative proposals may start with discussions between its business while in session. of the bill allocated to it and may consider any called to answer questions raised by the committee amendments. and deletion of directorate process for scrutinising other bills. controlling public expenditure into the Legislative Council for its First Reading. considers reports of the Director of Audit on the accounts . the original proposals may be revised until conducted in Putonghua. and motion debates. motion of impeachment by a two-thirds majority of Members frequently hold debates on other issues all its members and report it to the Central People’s such as important government policies or on matters of Government for decision. the Members of the Legislative Council charges the Other public expenditure proposals not contained in Chief Executive with serious breach of law or the Appropriation Bill will be scrutinised and approved by dereliction of duty and if he or she refuses to resign. The committee normally meets in whether a Bills Committee should be formed to study the public to scrutinise and approve public expenditure provisions. and for changes to the structure of civil service the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill is grades and ranks. Cantonese or English with they command a high degree of general support. redeployment. This debate usually takes investigation and reporting its findings to the council. adjourned. within about two to four Committee System: Through a system of committee. as required when exercising the above-mentioned powers and functions. The bill becomes law after it is signed Committee: the Establishment Subcommittee and the by the Chief Executive and gazetted. and in many papers. statements. Bills Committee will report back to the House Committee. After the bill and the draft estimates of expenditure Reading debate. Public officers the general merits and principles. Council’s approval to introduce the bill into the Legislative Council. on behalf of subvented organisations. addresses. the council may pass a response. Members of the Legislative Council will independent investigation committee. for examination. after the debate on posts. and principles of the bill. the Finance Committee which will note the financial the council may. the bill will also go to committee stage and then proceed Public Accounts Committee (PAC): The PAC to Third Reading. After the and monitoring Government’s performance. after passing a motion for implications of new policies. the relevant advisory committees. The have the opportunity to put forward their comments in the committee shall be responsible for carrying out the Motion of Thanks debate. the bill annual expenditure proposals for the following financial may return to the council and resumes its Second year. which is a standing committee of the the Government’s expenditure proposals under the council. amendments can be moved. investigation. normally meets at 11 am every Wednesday in the Enacting Laws: Typically. place two weeks after the Chief Executive delivers his If the committee considers the evidence sufficient to Policy Address. cases. The Establishment Controlling Public Expenditure: The Subcommittee examines and makes recommendations to Government’s budget is presented to the Legislative the Finance Committee on the Government’s proposals Council in the form of an Appropriation Bill. after which the bill receives There are two subcommittees under the Finance the Third Reading. The bill will then be Finance Committee: The Finance Committee referred to the House Committee for consideration. The proceedings of The Government then submits its proposal to the the meetings are recorded verbatim in the Official Record Executive Council and seeks the Chief Executive in of Proceedings of the Legislative Council. One of the roles of the Finance Committee is to The House Committee may then discuss the report of the scrutinise the budget presented by the Financial Bills Committee for the purpose of preparing members Secretary to the Legislative Council in the form of an for resumption of debate on the bill. A Bills Committee thus formed will consider proposals put forward by the Government. bill will normally be adjourned. Public Works Subcommittee. and district councils. the bill will then go through the committee stage. If the bill receives Second Reading. After the committee has Capital Works Reserve Fund for projects in the public completed examining the estimates. give a mandate to the Chief Justice of Policy Debates: Following the Chief Executive’s the Court of Final Appeal to form and chair an Policy Address. weeks after the endorsement of the Executive Council. and the detailed responsible for implementing the relevant policy may be provisions. simultaneous interpretation provided. the members. The normal business the Government and the relevant Legislative Council includes: tabling of subsidiary legislation and other panels. reports. processing of bills. Public Accounts Committee. Similar to the for the creation. it have been examined by the Finance Committee. the estimates containing the details of the The Public Works Subcommittee examines and financial requirements in the bill will be referred to the makes recommendations to the Finance Committee on Finance Committee. consists of all members except the President. At the conclusion of its deliberations. members will examine the bill and decide among its members. Usually. persons Meetings of the Legislative Council: The council concerned to testify or give evidence. and concern to the community at large. If supported. The official in charge of the bill has moved the bill’s Second Legislative Council has three standing committees: the Reading with a speech explaining the merits and Finance Committee. the Second Reading debate on the Committee on Members’ Interests. ● To summon. The Usually at the next House Committee meeting that chairman and the deputy chairman are elected from follows. the debate on the works programme and building projects carried out by or Second Reading of the bill will be resumed. to be followed by the Administration's substantiate such charges.

representing about four per cent of the may also consider the bill’s detailed provisions and workforce in Hong Kong. Government of the day in formulating. The 18 District Councils advise the investigation of criminal offences. The The main administrative and executive functions of committee also examines arrangements for the government are carried out by 12 policy bureaux in the compilation. public. Administration. other than the the Administration. The District staff of public organisations to attend public hearings to Councils also undertake environmental improvements give explanation. 2014. may join a bills committee to consider the (excluding about 1 500 judges and judicial officers and principles and merits of a bill allocated to it for scrutiny. conducting administrative affairs. the Legislative delivering public services. or any other and promote recreational. It 22. It ICAC officers). It is dissolved on the passage of the from 2003-04 up to now. LEGAL SYSTEM Criminal Prosecutions: The Secretary for Justice. House Committee or as raised by the panel members themselves. Its chairman and deputy chairman are the three Secretaries of Departments to deputise for the elected among members. the Financial Secretary. explaining and Panels: To monitor the performance of the implementing policies. The Chief Secretary for Administration every Friday afternoon and is responsible for dealing with assists the Chief Executive in supervising the policy matters related to the work of the Legislative Council and bureaux as directed by him and plays a key role in prepares members for the full council meetings. and makes THE ADMINISTRATION recommendations relating to members’ interests. It employed some 164 000 people President. cultural and community persons to assist it in relation to such explanation. new recruits views on major legislative or financial proposals before appointed to the civil service on or after July 1. while the number of Committee on Members’ Interests considers matters elected seats will be increased by 19 to 431. The committee agencies. 2016. save for those Committee. is ultimately District Councils: The fourth District Council election of responsible for all prosecutions in Hong Kong.5 per cent. The fifth- pertaining to members’ declaration of interests and term District Council election will be held on November matters of ethics in relation to their conduct. comprises seven members who are appointed by the Under the accountability system for principal officials President of the Council in accordance with an election implemented since July 2002.and the results of value-for-money audits of the Government on matters affecting the well-being of the Government and other organisations which are within the people and on the adequacy and priorities of government purview of public audit. staff for all government departments and other units of Bills Committees: Any member. The committee normally meets Chief Executive. as at December 31. Council and proposing to the council such amendments The civil service is a unified service in the sense that as are considered necessary. and it is his responsibility there are 27 ex-officio members (who are Rural to conduct and control prosecutions. Besides. should be formed as appropriate to study bills and subsidiary legislation which have been introduced into The Civil Service: The civil service system provides the the Legislative Council. and examine important issues of wide public who fall within the specified exceptions. In Committee on Rules of Procedure is responsible for 2014-15. examine government policies. the Legislative Council also has a most important officials within the Government. ranges from two to four per cent of strength completed its task. 1997 their formal introduction into the council or Finance must be HKSAR permanent residents. 2012. propose amendments relevant to the bill. all appointed seats to the Committee on Members’ Interests: The District Councils will be abolished. activities within their respective districts. These panels also give In accordance with the Basic Law. Committee chairmen in the New Territories) and 68 The Secretary for Justice plays no part in the appointed members. 2015. evidence or information. instituted in any particular case. To facilitate the delivery of new bill concerned through the Legislative Council or when policy initiatives and improvement of services to the the House Committee so decides. It is for the HKSAR was held on November 6. maintenance and accessibility of the Government Secretariat. The committee consists of its officers are all subject to common appointment 12 members and they are appointed by the President in procedures and similar disciplinary codes. and undertaking law Council has established 18 panels to monitor and enforcement and regulatory functions. the Chief Secretary for procedure determined by the House Committee. concern as referred by the council. A bills Wastage from all sources. the civil service establishment has increased by Committee on Rules of Procedure: The about 1 per cent annually from 2007-08 to 2013-14. including resignation and committee tables a report in council after it has retirement. 2011 to return 412 him to decide whether or not prosecutions should be elected members to the 18 District Councils. Their term of evidence or information. investigates complaints regarding members’ registration and declaration of interests. and 61 departments and Register of Members’ Interests. The Chief House Committee which consists of all members except Secretary for Administration is the most senior among the President. the size of the civil service increased by about reviewing the Rules of Procedure of the Legislative 1. who DISTRICT ORGANISATIONS heads the Department of Justice. It may invite public officers and programmes in their respective districts. The PAC’s seven members are office is four years starting from January 1. as that is the . It also ensuring harmonisation in policy formulation and decides whether bills committees or subcommittees implementation. Government in different policy areas. Councils on January 1. the Secretary for House Committee: Apart from the above three Justice and the various Directors of Bureaux are the standing committees. mostly staffed by civil servants. With appointed by the President in accordance with an effect from the commencement of the fifth-term District election procedure determined by the House Committee. The civil accordance with an election procedure determined by the service supports the Chief Executive and the House Committee.

a party may elect to have the issues of Small Claims Tribunal and the Obscene Articles Tribunal. It hears all prosecutions and civil disputes. It is fundamental to Hong Kong’s legal Justice to decide whether or not that evidence justifies system that members of the judiciary are independent of the preferment of criminal charges against any person. Those who frame new laws are inhibited and without individual reference to the Department of from infringing human rights or well-established legal Justice. where Final Appeal. Some minor prosecutions heard before citizens. The purpose of an inquest is to establish the identity of a Powers and Duties of the Judiciary: The Judiciary is deceased person and the cause and circumstances responsible for the administration of justice in Hong connected with the death. . the District Court decides whether the accused is guilty or not guilty and a (which includes the Family Court). which provides that the Department of nor any police officer is able to exercise a power unless Justice of the HKSAR shall control criminal prosecutions. the High Court (which includes the Court of a judge so orders. enforcement agencies. or judges. that is. HKSAR Government Home Page address: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government http://www. of common law jurisdictions that members of the judiciary the Government of which he is a member and of the are completely independent of the executive organ of courts before which he prosecutes. are tried by The Organisation of the Judiciary in Hong Kong: The a judge of the Court of First Instance of the High courts of justice in Hong Kong comprise the Court of Court. will uphold law enforcement agencies along settled guidelines the rule of law and safeguard the rights and freedoms of issued under the authority of the Secretary for Justice the individual. by way of specific delegation. which is responsible magistrates are routine matters which are dealt with by to the law itself and not to the Government. guardian of the public Information contained in this publication may be freely used. In Court). prosecutions may not be brought without his consent. the Labour Tribunal. principles declared and developed by generations of supervise prosecutions generally and he personally. majority vote is required. sitting with a jury consisting of seven or. Public interest is also a relevant consideration. In certain defined duties by the Judiciary Administrator. the Secretary for Justice Independent Trial: It is a fundamental principle of acts as an independent officer. Published by the Information Services Department. In making decisions on prosecution policy. The Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal is the If a coroner decides to hold an inquest with a jury. considers many sensitive cases and all cases where the law provides that Jury System: The most serious type of criminal offences. such as murder. It is the jury which Appeal and the Court of First Instance).gov. the Coroner’s Court. June 2015 GovHK Website: http://www. The principle of The exercise of the power to govern is itself accountable prosecutorial independence is guaranteed by Article 63 to the law. independent.responsibility of the police force and the other law Kong. An free from any interference. he exercises in this area is part of his function as This principle has always been applied in Hong Kong. he can point to some authority in law for his acts. individual can seek redress before the court if the power The Secretary for Justice and his counsel do not of government is exceeded or abused. armed robbery and drug offences involving large quantities. The independent judiciary. manslaughter. fact tried by jury. No acknowledgement is necessary. However. circumstances an inquest with a jury is mandatory. The function which government in the performance of their judicial duties. Neither the Chief Executive. The size of the majority the Magistrates’ Courts (which include the Juvenile required varies depending on the size of the jury. The Secretary for Justice does. nine. the executive and legislative branches of government. He has against themselves advise on every prosecution which is the Government generally the same as against fellow brought. a head of the Judiciary and assisted in his administrative jury of five will be appointed. once the agencies have including disputes between individuals and the completed the investigation it is for the Secretary for Government. the some civil cases. the Lands Tribunal. the civil service of the Basic Law.