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Chief Executive of Hong Kong

The Chief Executive of Hong Kong is the head of Hong Kong Government and the principal representative of the Hong Kong. The position was created to replace the Governor of Hong Kong, who was the head of Hong Kong Government during British administration of the then colony.

The office, stipulated by the Basic Law, formally came into being on 1 July 1997 when the People's Republic of China resumed the sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom.

The chief executive holds the title "The Honourable", and ranks first in the Hong Kong order of precedence. The current chief executive is Sir Donald Tsang.

Eligibility for office

Article 44 of the Basic Law provides that the Chief Executive must be a Chinese citizen of not less than 40 years old, who is a permanent resident of HKSAR with no right of abode in any foreign country, and has ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than 20 years.

Article 47 further requires that the Chief Executive must be a person of integrity, dedicated to his or her duties.

In addition, according to electoral laws, anyone interested in running for Chief Executive must receive at least 100 nominations from the Election Committee prior to the election.


The term of office of the Chief Executive is five years. If a vacancy appears mid-term, the new Chief Executive finishes up the previous Chief Executive's term (see Duration of mandate below), and each person can serve for not more than two consecutive terms. The method of selecting the Chief Executive is provided under Article 45 and Annex I of the Basic Law, and the Chief Executive Election Ordinance of Hong Kong. The first term of the Chief Executive was elected by a 400 member Election Committee, consisting of members as elected from respective sectors and appointed by the Central People's Government. In the second term, the Election Committee was enlarged to 800 members, mainly elected from among business and professional sectors. The elected Chief Executive must then be appointed by the Central People's Government.

Under the Chief Executive Election Ordinance, the winning candidate to the election must declare that he is not a member of a political party, and will not become a member of any political party nor subject to the discipline of any political party during his term of office. This is ostensibly to ensure neutrality, though the Chief Executive has so far been heavily influenced by Beijing.

Term of office, resignation and succession

Election or byelection?

Article 46 of the Basic Law states that "The term of office of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be five years". However, following the resignaton of Tung Chee-Hwa, doubts were expressed over whether the new Chief Executive would serve a 'new' five year term, or only serve the remainder of the term of a predecessor/incumbent who departed prematurely. The debate became polarised and elevated to a mini-"constitutional crisis", since most of the individuals involved with drafting the Basic Law in the 1980s, as well as many legal experts in Hong Kong, felt that it was quite clear that the term should be five years, and that an NPCSC interpretation was opposed by Hongkongers.

On 12 March 2005, Tsang, as acting chief executive, together with Elsie Leung, the Secretary for Justice, announced the Hong Kong Government had decided, based on the advice from legal experts from the mainland, it will be the remainder of Tung's term, and would proceed to the Legislative Council to amend local laws to confirm.

On 15 March, Tsang and Elsie Leung told legislators in a council meeting that the former understanding of the government was incorrect. (See Elsie Leung's transcript for details)

On 23 March, Wang Rudeng, assistance director of the Central People's Government Liaison Office in Hong Kong, said to the press that the central government would not let the debate to carry on. He also commented that many well-educated people had shown their support to an NPCSC interpretation of the Basic Law. However, many others expressed fears that, in view of the clear lack of ambiguity of Article 45, seeking an interpretation of the Basic Law by the National People's Congress Standing Committee would undermine the principle of "One Country, Two Systems" in Hong Kong. One day later legislator Albert Chan admitted he was planning to file a judicial review.

Pre-empting the outcome of any further debate and formal interpretation by the Standing Committee, on 30 March, Cheng Siwei, a vice president of the NPCSC, reiterated the statement by the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPCSC in mid-February that the successor should serve the remainder of the unexpired term.

Tsang and Elsie Leung met members of legislative council on 31 March and 1 April. Tsang told the press he was worried the election would not be able to be held on time, if some file a judicial review. On 1 April, both the Law Society of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Bar Association said the term should be five years. They requested to join the delegation to Beijing during the meeting with Elsie Leung.

By 2 April, pro-Beijing parties Liberal Party, DAB and The Alliance indicated that they could accept an interpretation. Cheng Yiu Tong, non-ex-officio member of Executive Council and president of pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said there were many more benefits than shortcomings of an interpretation.

On 5 April, Tam Yiu Chung, vice-chairman of DAB, announced to the press that the government would seek an interpretation. Acting chief executive Tsang, as chief secretary, announced formally on 6 April at Legislative Council meeting.

The NPCSC confirmed their interpretation on 27 April 2005, stating the new Chief Executive would fill the vacancy only for the remainder of Tung's term.


Article 52 stipulates circumstances under which the Chief Executive must resign, including the loss of ability to discharge his or her duties, and refusal to sign a bill passed by a two-thirds majority of the Legislative Council, after previously dissolving the Council because he or she twice refuses to sign the original bill passed by a two-thirds majority.

Acting and succession

The acting and succession line is spelled out in Article 53 of the Basic Law. If the Chief Executive is not able to discharge his or her duties for short periods (such as during overseas visits), the duties would be assumed by the Chief Secretary for Administration, the Financial Secretary or the Secretary for Justice, by rotation, in that order, as acting chief executive.

In case the position becomes vacant, a new Chief Executive would have to be elected. The provisions of inability to exercise the powers come into force, and then a new election is held on the Sunday on or immediately following the 120th day after the vacancy accordingly. (No election is required, of course, if only one candidate is nominated.)

Duties and powers

Under the Basic Law, the Chief Executive is the head of the HKSAR, and is the head of the government of the HKSAR, whose powers and functions include leading the government, implementing the law, signing bills and budgets passed by the Legislative Council, deciding on government policies, nominating principal officials of the HKSAR to the Central People's Government, appointing judges and holders of certain public offices and to pardon or commute seteneces.

The Executive Council is the de facto cabinet of the Chief Executive. It is presided over by the Chief Executive and is an organ for assisting him in policy-making. The Chief Executive shall consult the Executive Council before making important policy decisions, introducing bills to the Legislative Council, making subordinate legislation or dissolving the Legislative Council.


Residence and office

The former Chief Executive, Tung Chee Hwa, did not use the Government House as the primary residence because he lived at his own residence at Grenville House, except for a short period at a government flat at Harbour View, 11 Magazine Gap Road when the flat at Grenville House was under renovation. Donald Tsang has decided to return to the renovated Government House, and has moved in on January 2006, for both his office and residence

Previous governors also had some alternative residence. Sir Hercules Robinson also had a residence, Mountain Lodge, which was built as a summer home. Only the Gate Lodge and Victoria Peak Garden remains (Sir Richard MacDonnell also had a residence built in 1868). The Fanling Lodge in the New Territories remains the alternate summer residence after 1997.

Prior to the handover in 1997, the Office of the Chief Executive-designate was at the seventh floor of the Asia Pacific Finance Tower. When Tung Chee Hwa assumed duty on 1 July 1997, the Office of the Chief Executive was located at the fifth floor of the Central Government Offices (Main Wing), also known as the Government Secretariat. In the past the governor had his office at the Government House.

The official state car of the Chief Executive is the Lexus LS 600h L hybrid vehicle.

Office of Former Chief Executives

28 Kennedy Road, former British School was declared as the location for the Office of Former Chief Executives. It'll be used for "promotional, protocol-related, or any other activities in relation to their former official role" and will be shared by two to three former CE at one time (Currently only the first CE, Tung Chee Hwa is occupying the space).

Criticism of the Office

Since the CE is elected by a committee of 800 people (which represents about 0.01% of Hong Kong's population), rather than the general population, many people, in particular the pro-democrats, have criticized the Office as undemocratic, and have criticized the entire election process as a "small-circle election." There has also been criticisms that because the Office is not democratically elected, the CE lacks legitimacy among the people. There is also criticism that the Office often do not represent or promote the interests of Hong Kong to the Chinese Government.

Moreover, there is criticism to the criteria of the candidate for the Office must receive at least 100 nominations from the Election Committee. Since the overwhelming majority to the Election Committee has ties to China, be it political or economic, this criteria is seen to be a tool to sift out any potential candidates who is not in favour with the Chinese Government.

List of Chief Executives of Hong Kong

Order Name Assumed office Left office Notes Term
1 Tung Chee Hwa 1 July 1997 30 June 2002 1
1 July 2002 12 March 2005 Resigned before end of term 2
- Donald Tsang 13 March 2005 24 May 2005 Acting chief executive
- Henry Tang 25 May 2005 24 June 2005 Acting chief executive
2 Donald Tsang 25 June 2005 30 June 2007
1 July 2007 (incumbent) Term ends on 30 June 2012 3

See also


External links

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