The Legislative Council
) is the unicameral legislature
of Hong Kong
The Legislative Council of Hong Kong was created in 1843 under the authorization of Queen Victoria
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
. Hong Kong's first constitution , in the form of Queen Victoria's Letters Patent
, was entitled the Charter of the Colony of Hong Kong and authorized the establishment of the Legislative Council to advise the the Governor
's administration. The Council had 4 Official Members when it was first established.
The first direct elections of the Legislative Council held in 1991.
In 1996, a Provisional Legislative Council was unilaterally found in Guangzhou by People's Republic of China to replace Legislative Council after the transfer of the sovereignty. Legislative Council was suspended in 1997-1998 to give way to Provisional Legislative Council. However, the Provisional Council ceased operation within a year and the Legislative Council resumed its operation from 1998.
The Legislative Council Building
The Legislative Council of Hong Kong has been housed in the Old Supreme Court building
in Central Hong Kong
The statue on the Legislative Council Building is a replica of the one erected on the Old Bailey of London - a depiction of the goddess of justice, Themis, a legacy from the former Supreme Court.
Unlike many other former (or current) Commonwealth legislatures, the Hong Kong Legislative Council does not have a ceremonial mace placed in its chambers. However, the high courts of Hong Kong use a mace to open sessions and represents the authority and powers of the court.
President of the Legislative Council
From the Legislative Council's establishment in 1843 to 1993, the Governor
had always been the President and Member of the Council, and until 1917 the Governor was required to acted with the advices but not necessary the consent of the Legislative Council. The Letters Patent of 1917 changed this by requiring the Governor to act "with advice and consent" of the Council.
The President is the speaker of the council. The current president is Jasper Tsang, since October 8, 2008.
Members of the Legislative Council
The following table shows the distribution of council members and their political parties. For the list of current members of Legistative Council, see Hong Kong legislative election, 2008
. All members of the LegCo are eligible to be addressed with the title of "The Honourable
Members of the Legislative Council are seated to the left and front of the President's chair in the chambers. The three rows to the right are reserved for the secretaries and other civil servants of the government, and other people whom appear in the meetings.
Officers of the Legislative Council
Assisting the President are the officers of the Legco. The Clerk sits to the left of the President. The remaining officers at the large desk in the centre of the Council are the Deputy Clerk, Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General. While the Clerk faces the same direction as the President, the 3 remaining officer have chairs facing away from the President. When the CE (or Governor) is in Council, he or she will address from either a podium in front of the President or to the right of the President.
The term of office of a legislator is four years in length, except for the first term from 1998 to 2000 which was set at two years (Article 69, Basic Law).
In the 2004 election, 30 members were directly elected by universal suffrage from geographical constituencies (GC) and 30 were elected from functional constituencies. In the previous election in 2000, 24 were directly elected, 6 elected from an 800-member electoral college called the Election Committee of Hong Kong, and 30 elected from functional constituencies. The method of election after 2007 has not been specified. The Basic Law states that the ultimate aim is the election of all the Legco members by universal suffrage (Article 68 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong).
Traditionally, the President does not vote. However, this convention is not a constitutional requirement.
Private members' bills and motions have to be passed by majorities in both chambers of the legislature - members returned from geographical constituencies and election committee, and members returned from functional constituencies. This arrangement, however, is not necessary for government bills, with only a simple majority required to secure passage.
Amendments to ordinary bills require a simple majority in each chamber, giving either chamber a veto. Meanwhile, Amendments to the Basic Law require a two-thirds vote in LegCo, without a specific requirement in each chamber. After passing LegCo, the Basic Law amendment must be approved by a supermajority of the same size among Hong Kong's delegates to the National People's Congress, and also by the Chief Executive (since veto power is given to him by Art. 159)
Implications of voting regime
Whilst the pro-government party vote usually outnumbers the pro-democracy votes, and thus allow passage of most legislation, the 2005 electoral reform package was blocked when the democrats, wielding 25 votes, caused the government to fall short of the two-thirds majority required for this amendment to the Basic Law. Professor DeGolyer of Baptist University
said that by "buying 15 functional constituency members' loyalty, the Government can block amendments to any bills, [which may account for the often] nonsensical budget decisions and puzzling allocations.
The GC seats are returned by universal suffrage. The voting system adopted in these electoral districts is a system of party-list proportional representation (PR), with seats allocated by the largest remainder method using the Hare quota as the quota for election. The system is widely considered to give representative legislatures. There were 3.06 million registered voters.
- Provisional Legislative Council
There are 28 functional constituencies
(FC) represented in LegCo, representing various sectors of the community which were considered playing a crucial role in the development of Hong Kong.
In the 2000 election, 27 of the FCs returned 1 member, except the Labour functional constituency which returned 3 members, giving a total of 30 FC seats.
- Heung Yee Kuk
- Agriculture and fisheries
- Financial services
- Information technology
- Health services
- Architectural, surveying and planning
- Real estate and construction
Import and export
Wholesale and retail
Textiles and garment
Sport, performing arts, culture and publication
A simple plurality
system was used for 23 of the FCs, in which an eligible voter may cast one vote. The exceptions were Labour FC in which a voter may cast up to three votes, thereby creating a block vote
, and the Heung Yee Kuk, Agriculture and Fisheries, Insurance, and Transport FCs where a preferential elimination system
was used due to the small number of voters. In the latter a voter must indicate preferences rather than approval/disapproval or a single choice.
10 LegCo members were returned by the Election Committee (EC) in the 1998 election, and 6 in the 2000 election, in accordance with Annex II of the Basic Law. Now this college of electors is used only to elect the Chief Executive. There are 800 members in the EC, coming from four sectors with 200 members each. (Basic Law, Ann.1, Sect. 2)
Most of the 800 EC members were returned by earlier sub-sector elections. The 6 LegCo members were chosen by a "first-past-the-post" system, with each EC member casting a vote to choose exactly 6 candidates among themselves.