|Legislative Council of Hong Kong
|4th Legislative Council|
|President of the Legislative Council||Jasper Tsang Yok Sing, DAB
since 8 October 2008
|Members||60 (Five Members, including two from the Civic Party and three from the League of Social Democrats, resigned their seats on 29 January 2010. The current Council comprises 55 Members.)|
|Political groups||Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (1)
Civic Party (5)
Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (10)
Democratic Party (9)
Federation of Trade Unions (4)
|Last election||7 September 2008|
|Legislative Council Building, Central, Hong Kong|
|Name before 1997|
The Legislative Council of Hong Kong was created in 1843 as a colonial legislature under British rule. Hong Kong's first constitution , in the form of Queen Victoria's Letters Patent which entitled the Charter of the Colony of Hong Kong, authorized the establishment of the Legislative Council to advise the Governor's administration. The Council had four Official Members when it was first established.
The first direct elections of the Legislative Council were held in 1991. The Legislative Council became a fully-elected legislature for the first time in its history in 1995.
To prepare for the handover of the sovereignty of Hong Kong from the British government to the Chinese government, a Provisional Legislative Council was established by the Preparatory Committee for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) under the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China in 1996. The Provisional Legislative Council, in operation from January 1997 to June 1998, initially held its meetings in Shenzhen. The Legislative Council of the HKSAR was established in 1998 under The Basic Law of the HKSAR. The first meeting of the Council was held in July of the same year in Hong Kong. Since the Basic Law came into effect, four Legislative Council elections have been held, with the most recent election being held in September 2008.
The Legislative Council of Hong Kong has been housed in the Old Supreme Court building in Central Hong Kong since 1985.
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, and 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 it represents the authority and powers of the court.
To provide a long-term solution to the space shortage problem facing both the Government and the Legislative Council, the Government has commissioned the Tamar Development for the design and construction of the Central Government Complex, the Legislative Council Complex and other ancillary facilities in 2008. Work for the project is scheduled for completion in 2011. The Legislative Council Complex will have more conference facilities, a constitutional library and other new facilities, such as lobby hall, exhibition area, video-showing corner, viewing gallery, education gallery, education activities room, cafeteria and a souvenir shop.
The major functions of the Legislative Council are to enact, amend or repeal laws, examine and approve budgets, approve taxation and public expenditure, and monitor the work of the Government. Under The Basic Law (Article 73), the Legislative Council is given additional power to endorse the appointment and removal of the judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court, and to impeach the Chief Executive if he or she has committed serious breach of law or dereliction of duty.
The Legislative Council consists of 60 elected Members. The term of office of a legislator is four years, except for the first term (1998 to 2000) when it was set to be two years (Article 69, Basic Law).
In both the 2008 and 2004 elections, 30 Members were directly elected by universal suffrage from geographical constituencies (GC) and 30 were elected from functional constituencies. In the 2000 election, 24 were directly elected, six elected from an 800-member electoral college known as the Election Committee of Hong Kong, and 30 elected from functional constituencies. According to The Basic Law, while the method for forming LegCo shall be specified in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress, the ultimate aim is the election of all LegCo Members by universal suffrage (Article 68 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong).
From the establishment of LegCo in 1843 to 1993, the Governor was the President and a Member of the Council, and until 1917 the Governor was required to act with the advice but not necessary the consent of LegCo. The Letters Patent of 1917 changed this by requiring the Governor to act "with advice and consent" of LegCo. Under The Basic Law (Article 72), the President has the powers and functions to preside over meetings, decide on the agenda, including giving priority to government bills for inclusion in the agenda, decide on the time of meetings, call special sessions during the recess, call emergency sessions on the request of the Chief Executive; and exercise other powers and functions as prescribed in the rules of procedure of LegCo.
The President of the HKSAR legislature has to meet the eligibility requirements set out in The Basic Law that he or she "shall be a Chinese citizen of not less than 40 years of age, who is a permanent resident of the [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".
The President is elected by and from among LegCo Members.
The first President (1997-2008) is Mrs Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, who is also the first female President of the Hong Kong Legislature.
The Legislative Council is primarily composed of Chinese citizens who are permanent residents of the HKSAR with no right of abode in any foreign country. Nevertheless, permanent residents of the HKSAR who are not of Chinese nationality or who have the right of abode in foreign countries may also be Members of LegCo, provided that the proportion of such Members does not exceed 20% of the total membership of LegCo.
Services to Members were originally provided by the Office of the Clerk to the LegCo which was part of the Government Secretariat. Additional support later came from other administrative units, i.e. the Unofficial Members of the Executive and Legislative Councils (UMELCO) Secretariat and its variants, in consideration of the gradually rising volume of work in Council business.
With the establishment of UMELCO in 1963, public officers were seconded to UMELCO to assist Members to deal with public complaints and build up public relations with the local community. During their secondments, public officers took instructions only from LegCo Members. The practice remained when the Office of the Members of the Executive and Legislative Councils (OMELCO) replaced UMELCO in 1986. In 1991, the OMELCO Secretariat was incorporated. As a result of the complete separation of membership of the Executive and Legislative Councils, OMELCO was renamed the Office of Members of Legislative Council (OMLEGCO).
The Legislative Council Commission, a statutory body independent of the Government, was established under The Legislative Council Commission Ordinance on 1 April 1994. The Commission integrated the administrative support and services to the Council by the Office of the Clerk to the Legislative Council and the OMLEGCO Secretariat into an independent Legislative Council Secretariat. The Commission replaced all civil servants by contract staff in the 1994-1995 session. At present, the Secretariat, headed by the Secretary General, provides administrative support and services to the Council through its nine divisions. In addition to being the chief executive of the Secretariat, the Secretary General is also the Clerk to the Legislative Council. The Clerk to the Legislative Council is responsible for advising the President on all matters relating to the procedure of the Council and preparing from day to day a Council Agenda Item Book showing all future business of which notice has been given.
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 of Members returned from geographical constituencies and Members returned from functional constituencies respectively. This arrangement, however, is not applicable to government bills, where only a simple majority is required to secure passage. Amendments to the Basic Law require a two-thirds vote in LegCo, without a specific requirement in each group of constituencies. After passing LegCo, the Basic Law amendment must obtain the consent of two-thirds of Hong Kong's deputies to the National People's Congress, and also the Chief Executive (since veto power is given to him under Article 159).
In a typical Council meeting, LegCo Members are seated to the left and front of the President's chair in the chamber. The three rows to the right are reserved for government officials and other people attending the meetings.
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 party-list PR system is the most widely-used form of proportional representation system to facilitate the formation of a representative legislature. There were 3.37 million registered electors in the 2008 election.
|Geographical constituencies||No. of Seats|
|Hong Kong Island||4||5||6||6|
|New Territories East||5||5||7||7|
|New Territories West||5||6||8||8|
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.
Since the 2000 election, 27 FCs have returned one Member, except the Labour FC which has returned three Members, giving a total of 30 FC seats.
A simple plurality system is adopted for 23 FCs, with an eligible voter casting one vote only. The exceptions are the 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 is used due to the small number of voters. In the preferential elimination system, a voter must indicate preferences rather than approval/disapproval or a single choice.
1.^ http://www.legco.gov.hk/english/index.htm Paragraph three indicates Queen Victoria's Letters Patent was Hong Kong's first constitution 2.^ Duties of the Clerk 3.^ Michael DeGolyer (24 July 2008). "Legco dice loaded from the start". The Standard. http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=15&art_id=69034&sid=19876711&con_type=3&d_str=20080724&sear_year=2008.