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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Legislative Council of the
Hong Kong
Special Administrative Region

5th Legislative Council
Coat of arms or logo
     Jasper TsangDAB
since 8 October 2008
Seats 70
Current Legislative Council of Hong Kong seat composition by party.svg
Political groups

Pro-Beijing (43)
     DAB (13)
     BPA (7)
     FTU (6)
     Liberal (5)
     NPP (2)
     New Forum (1)
     FLU (1)
     Independents (8)

Pan-democrats (27)
     Civic (6)
     Democratic (6)
     Labour (4)
     People Power (2)
     Prof Commons (2)
     LSD (1)
     Neo Democrats (1)
     NWSC (1)
     ADPL (1)

     Independents (3)
Last election
9 September 2012
Meeting place
Legislative Council Complex 2011 Chamber.JPG
Legislative Council Complex, 1 Legislative Council Road, Central, Hong Kong
Legislative Council
Traditional Chinese 立法會
Simplified Chinese 立法会
Name before 1997
Chinese 立法局
Central Government Offices, home to Legco 1950s to 1985
French Mission Building was home to Legco 1840s

The Legislative Council (Chinese: 立法會) or the LegCo is the unicameral legislature of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The meetings of the Legislative Council is held at Legislative Council Complex since 2011. It has 70 members in which 35 returned from geographical constituencies plus 5 from a District Council functional constituency by direct elections; and 30 returned from other functional constituencies by indirect elections.

Under the Articles 66 to 79 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong, the main functions of the Legislative Council are to enact, amend or repeal laws; examine and approve budgets, taxation and public expenditure; and raise questions on the work of the government. In addition, the Legislative Council is also given the power to endorse the appointment and removal of the judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court, as well as the power to impeach the Chief Executive.[1]

Article 68 of the Basic Law states the ultimate aim is the election of all the members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage. Together with the similar article for Chief Executive, Article 68 has helped make universal suffrage of the Legislative Council and Chief Executive the most dominant issue of Hong Kong politics.


The Legislative Council of Hong Kong was set up in 1843 as a colonial legislature under British rule. Hong Kong's first constitution,[1] in the form of Queen Victoria's Letters Patent which was entitled the Charter of the Colony of Hong Kong, authorized the establishment of the Legislative Council to advise the Governor's administration on 27 June 1843. The Council had four Official members including the Governor who was President and Member when it was first established. The Letters Patent of 1888, which replaced the 1843 Charter, added the significant words "and consent" after the words "with the advice".[1] The Legislative Council was initially set up as the advisory body to the Governor, for the most of the time, it consisted about half of the official members who were the government officials seating in the Council; and the other half were the unofficial members appointed by the Governor.

As the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed on 19 December 1984 in which the United Kingdom agreed to transfer the sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China on 1 July 1997, the Hong Kong colonial government decided to start the process of democratisation in Hong Kong based on the consultative document, Green Paper: the Further Development of Representative Government in Hong Kong on 18 July 1984. The first ever elections to the Council were held in 1985, following by 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 on 9 September 2012.

The Legislative Council Building

The first meetings of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, from 1844 to 1846, were likely convened in the residence of Governor Pottinger (later to be the French Mission Building), still standing at Government Hill. From 1848 to 1954 (interrupted by renovation in 1928-9 and the Japanese occupation in 1941-5), it was housed on the upper floor of the Colonial Secretariat Building, Lower Albert Road, replaced in 1957 by the Annex to the Central Government Offices Main Wing, on the same site.[2] In 1985, LegCo moved down to the nearby Old Supreme Court building in Central Hong Kong where it remained until November 2011. It took up residence in its present accommodation at the Legislative Block of the Central Government Complex, Tamar in December 2011.

Unlike many other former and 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 commissioned the Tamar Development for the design and construction of the Central Government Complex, the Legislative Council Complex and other ancillary facilities in 2008. The Legislative Council Complex comprises a low block and a high block: the low block, which will be named the Council Block, mainly houses conference facilities including the Chamber, major conference rooms, and communal facilities such as library, cafeteria and education facilities. The range of education facilities for visit by the public includes video corner, visitors' sharing area, exhibition area, children's corner, viewing gallery and access corridors, memory lane, education activities rooms and education galleries. The high block, which will be named as the Office Block, mainly houses offices for members and staff of the Legislative Council Secretariat. Officially opened on 1 August 2011, administrative staff had already taken occupation on 15 January 2011.

Powers and functions

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 an 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. In addition, under Basic Law Article 74, members may introduce bills in accordance to the Basic Law. However, the written consent of the Chief Executive is required before bills relating to government policies are introduced.

Membership composition

The Legislative Council consists of 70 elected members. The term of office of a member is four years, except for the first term (1998 to 2000) when it was set to be two years (Article 69 of The Basic Law).

In both the 2008 and 2004 elections, 30 members were directly elected by universal suffrage from geographical constituencies (GCs) and 30 were elected from functional constituencies (FCs). 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 FCs. Since the 2012 election, all 70 seats are equally divided between geographical and functional constituencies.

According to The Basic Law, while the method for forming the Legislative Council shall be specified in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress, the ultimate aim is to elect all Council members by universal suffrage (Article 68 of The Basic Law of Hong Kong).


Geographical constituencies

The GC seats are returned by universal suffrage. The voting system adopted in the electoral districts is a system of party-list proportional representation, with seats allocated by the largest remainder method using the Hare quota as the quota for election.

The party-list proportional representation system is the most widely used form of proportional representation systems to facilitate the formation of a representative legislature. There were 3.37 million registered electors in the 2008 election.

Geographical constituencies No. of Seats
1998 2000 2004 2008 2012
Hong Kong Island 4 5 6 6 7
Kowloon East 3 4 5 4 5
Kowloon West 3 4 4 5 5
New Territories East 5 5 7 7 9
New Territories West 5 6 8 8 9
Total 20 24 30 30 35

Functional constituencies

There are 29 FCs in the Legislative Council, representing various sectors of the community which are considered playing a crucial role in the development of Hong Kong.

Since the 2012 election, 27 FCs have returned one member, except for the Labour FC which has returned three members and District Council (second) FC which has returned five members, giving a total of 35 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,[3] 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. District Council (Second) uses the same voting rule in Geographical constituencies for the 5 seats.

Until year 2012, both Heung Yee Kuk and Commercial (Second) FC are yet to have an actual election as being uncontested since their FC's establishment in 1991 and 1985 respectively.

President of the Legislative Council

From the establishment of the Legislative Council 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 the Legislative Council. The Letters Patent of 1917 changed such practice by requiring the Governor to act "with advice and consent" of the Legislative Council.

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 the Legislative Council.

The President of the Legislative Council 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 Council members. The first President (1997–2008) is Mrs Rita Fan, who is also the first female President of the Legislative Council. The incumbent President is Mr Tsang Yok-sing of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong since 2008.

Elections of the Legislative Council

The latest election was held on 9 September 2012. The Pro-Beijing camp retained control of the Legislative Council with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) as the largest party.
 Summary of the 9 September 2012 Legislative Council of Hong Kong election results
Political affiliation
% of Votes
Change in
% of vote
% of
Net change
in seats
Geographical Constituencies District Council (Second) FC
Civic 255,007 14.08 +0.42 5 1 - - - 6 +1
Democratic 247,220 13.65 -6.98 4 - 545,308 34.26 2 6 -2
People Power 176,250 9.73 N/A 3 - - - - 3 +1
Labour 112,140 6.19 N/A 3 1 - - - 4 +1
LSD 87,997 4.86 -5.24 1 - - - - 1 0
NWSC 43,799 2.42 -0.38 1 - - - - 1 0
ADPL 30,634 1.69 -1.10 0 - 262,172 16.47 1 1 0
Neo Democrats 28,621 1.58 N/A 1 - - - - 1 +1
Democratic Alliance 2,896 0.16 N/A 0 - - - - 0 0
PTU - - - - 1 - - - 1 0
Independent democrats 52,434 2.90 - 0 3 - - - 3 -
Total for Pro-democrats 1,036,998 57.26 -2.24 18 6 807,480 50.73 3 27 +4
DAB[table 1] 366,140 20.22 -2.70 9 3 476,875 29.96 1 13 +3
FTU 127,857 7.06 +1.36 3 2 246,196 15.47 1 6 +2
NPP 68,097 3.76 N/A 2 - - - - 2 +1
Liberal 48,702 2.69 -1.64 1 4 - - - 5 +2
KWND 34,548 1.91 N/A 1 - - - - 1 0
Civil Force[table 1] [table 2] 23,988 1.32 N/A 0 - - - - 0 0
Third Force 16,767 0.93 N/A 0 - - - - 0 0
Economic Synergy 5,717 0.32 N/A 0 3 - - - 3 -1
FLU - - - - 1 - - - 1 0
New Forum[table 2] - - - - 1 - - - 1 +1
Pro-Beijing Independents 38,546 2.13 - 1 10 - - - 11 +2
Total for Pro-Beijing camp 730,362 40.33 +0.58 17 24 723,071 45.43 2 43 +6
Non-aligned others 43,624 2.41 - 0 0 61,321 3.85 0 0 -
Total 1,810,984 Turnout 52.25 35 30 1,591,872 Turnout 49.44 70 -
  1. ^ a b Note: the votes gained by Lau Kong-wah who represents both DAB and Civil Force banner is counted into DAB in this table.
  2. ^ a b Note: the votes gained by Scarlett Pong who represents both Civil Force and New Century Forum is counted into Civil Force in this table.

Procedures for voting on bills and motions

Traditionally, the President does not vote. However, this convention is not a constitutional requirement.[4]

Private members' bills and motions have to be passed by majorities of members returned from GCs (GCs and ECs until 2004) and members returned from FCs 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 the Legislative Council, without a specific requirement in each group of constituencies. After passing the Council, 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 (the Chief Executive is vested with the veto power).

Seating arrangement

In a typical Council meeting in old Legislative room, members were seated to the left and front of the President's chair in the Chamber patterned after the adversarial layout of Westminster system legislatures. The three rows to the right were reserved for government officials and other people attending the meetings.

At the new Legco site at Tamar, members sit facing the President (and council officers) in an hemicycle seating arrangement.

Officers of the Legislative Council

Services to members were originally provided by the Office of the Clerk to the Legislative Council 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 Council 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 ten divisions. In addition to being the chief executive of the Secretariat, the Secretary General is also the Clerk to the Legislative Council responsible for advising the President on all matters relating to the procedure of the Council.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "History of the Legislature". Legislative Council. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "Heritage Impact Assessment". LWK Conservation Ltd. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Chap. 542, s. 51 of the Legislative Council Ordinance: "an elector may vote for as many candidates as there are vacancies and no more"
  4. ^ Michael DeGolyer (24 July 2008). "Legco dice loaded from the start". The Standard.

External links

  • Legislative Council of Hong Kong
  • Electoral Affairs Commission
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