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Politics of Hong Kong

Table of contents
1 Background
2 Current Situation
3 Right of Abode
4 Basic Law Article 23
5 Political Information
6 External Links


On July 1, 1997, the People's Republic of China (PRC) was handed sovereignty over Hong Kong, ending more than 150 years of British colonial control. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the PRC with a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs. According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration (1984) and the Basic Law--Hong Kong's mini-constitution--for 50 years after reversion Hong Kong will retain its political, economic, and judicial systems and unique way of life and continue to participate in international agreements and organizations under the name, "Hong Kong, China".

According to the Basic Law, the Legislative Council consists of directly elected members and indirectly elected members before 2007. Directly elected members are elected by general publics, and indirectly elected members are elected by functional (occupational) constituencies and an Election Committee. Those who are eligible to vote for the indirectly elected can also vote for the directly elected, therefore critics regard it as unfair and not democratic enough.

Under an initial agreement, the last Legislative Council of Hong Kong under British rule was elected according to the Basic Law and it would become the first Legislative Council of SAR. Chris Patten, by extending the definition of functional constituencies, allowed virtually everybody to vote for the indirectly elected. The PRC government strongly opposed his measure and instead they appointed a temporary Legislative Council to take over Hong Kong government on July 1, 1997. The first Legislative Council of HKSAR was elected in 1998.

Current Situation

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) is headed by Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa. Mr. Tung assumed office on July 1, 1997, following his selection by a 400-member committee appointed by Beijing in a four way race. He was reelected unopposed in 2001. The method of choosing the Chief Executive after 2007 remains as yet undetermined.

Legislative Council elections were held in May 1998 and again in September 2000. According to The Basic Law, Hong Kong's "Mini-constitution," the Legislative Council currently has 24 directly elected members and 36 indirectly elected members--30 members elected by functional (occupational) constituencies and 6 elected by an Election Committee. The next elections in 2004 will increase the number of elected seats to 30 and the number of functional seats to 30. The method of selecting legislative council seats after 2007 has yet to be determined.

The 1998 and 2000 elections were praised by pro-Beijing as free, open, and widely contested, but were criticized by pro-democracy as unfair as some can cast more than one vote. In both elections, pro-Beijing wins the majority of indirectly elected positions while pro-democracy and the independents occupy most directly elected seats.

According to the Basic Law, a government's draft becomes a law if half of the Legislative members vote for it, but a Legislative member's proposal could pass only if it receives the majority of directly elected members and majority of indirectly elected members. As pro-Beijing controls half the seats, a bill from the government is much easier to pass than a bill from pro-democracy. As a result, the Legislative Council is seen by some as a failure in overseeing the government.

Tung has dramatically changed the structure of the government. Overall the Civil Service maintains its quality and neutrality, operating without discernible direction from Beijing, but the upper officials are forced to take the job of bargaining with Legislative Council members.

Right of Abode

Main article: Right of abode issue, Hong Kong

In January 1999, the Court of Final Appeal, the highest judicial authrrity in Hong Kong interpreted the Basic Law in a case, in such a way that the Government estimated would allow 1.6 million Mainland China immigrants to enter Hong Kong within ten years. This caused widespread concerns among the public on the social and economical consequences.

While some in the legal sector advocated that the National People's Congress (NPC) should be asked to amend the part of the Basic Law to redress the problem, the HKSAR Government decided to sought an interpretation to, rather than an amendment of, the relevant Basic Law provisions from the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC). The NPCSC issued an interpretation in favour of the Government in June 1999.

Although interpretation of the Basic Law is within the power of the NPCSC, critics considered that the judicial independence of Hong Kong is undermined by the procedure taken. The Government argued otherwise.

Basic Law Article 23

Main article: Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23

In 2003, the HKSAR Government proposed to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law by legislating against acts such as treason, subversion, secession and sedition. However, there are concerns that the legislation might infringe on human rights. Some are also worried that the legislation might introduce mainland concept of national security into the HKSAR via the proposed power of proscribing organisations that endanger security of the state. Fear the loss of freedom of speech and other freedoms, as well as a general dissatisfaction against the Government, prompted a mass protest of up to 500,000 people on July 1, 2003.

After the mass protest, the Liberal Party, whose support is essential for the passage of the legislation schedule for July 9 2003, called for a delay in passing the legislation. On July 6, Tung Chee Hwa announced that the second reading of the proposed legislation was to be postponed after James Tien of the Liberal Party resigned from the Executive Council and would have his party members vote for a postponement.

Political Information

Region name:

conventional long form: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
conventional short form: Hong Kong
local long form: Xianggang Tebie Xingzhengqu
local short form: Xianggang
abbreviation: HK

Data code:


Dependency status:

Special administrative region of
People's Republic of China

Government type:


Administrative divisions:

none (Special administrative region of PRC)


NA (special administrative region of PRC)

National holiday:

National Day, 1 October; note - 1 July 1997 is celebrated as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day


Basic Law approved in March 1990 by China's National People's Congress is Hong Kong's "mini-constitution"

Legal system:

based on English
common law


Direct election 18 years of age; universal for permanent residents living in the territory of Hong Kong for the past seven years; indirect election limited to about 100,000 members of functional constituencies and an 800-member election committee drawn from broad regional groupings, municipal organizations, and central government bodies.

Executive branch:

chief of state:
President of the People's Republic of China Hu Jintao (since March 2003)
head of government: Chief Executive of Hong Kong Tung Chee-hwa (since 1 July 1997)
cabinet: The Executive Council consists of 14 ex-officio members and 5 non-official members; ex-officio members include: elections: NA

Legislative branch:

Legislative Council (LegCo) (60 seats; 30 returned by functional constituencies (indirect election), 24 returned by geographical constituencies (direct election), and 6 elected by an 800-member election committee; members serve four-year terms)
elections: last held September 2000 (next elections scheduled to be held in September 2004)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party (2000)- Democratic Party 13, Liberal Party 9, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong 9, Hong Kong Progressive Alliance 5, Frontier Party 3, Citizens Party 1, independents 20

Judicial branch:

The Court of Final Appeal in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Political parties and leaders:

Main article: List of political parties in Hong Kong

note: Political blocs include:

Political pressure groups and leaders:

International organization participation:

APEC, AsDB, BIS, CCC, ESCAP (associate), ICFTU, International Maritime Organization (associate), Interpol (subbureau), IOC, ISO (correspondent), WCL, WMO, WTrO

Flag description:

The flag of Hong Kong is red with a stylized, white, five-petal bauhinia flower in the center.

See also : Hong Kong - Politics of China

External Links