01.05.01. Background | Hong Kong SAR

01.05.01. Background | Hong Kong SAR

16 Aug 2022

Under the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997. This arrangement allows the city to enjoy a high degree of autonomy, including retaining its capitalist system, independent judiciary and rule of law, free trade, and freedom of speech. According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s political system and autonomy would remain unchanged for 50 years until 2047. It designates a three-branch system of governance led by the Chief Executive and the Executive Council, with a two-tiered system of representative government (i.e., Legislative Council and District Council), and the independent judiciary (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b). The structure of the government is described below:

  • The Chief Executive and Executive Council

The Chief Executive (CE) is the head of the government, which is elected by a broadly representative Election Committee in accordance with the Basic Law and is appointed by the Central People’s Government. It is responsible for implementing the Basic Law, signing bills and budgets, promulgating laws, making decisions on government policies, and issuing Executive Orders. The term length of CE is five years and possible consecutive renewal for once only. He or she is assisted in policy making by the Executive Council (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b).

The Executive Council assists the CE in policymaking and advises the CE on matters relating to the introduction of bills and subsidiary legislation. It consists of 16 official and 16 non-official members. All members are appointed by the CE from among the senior officials of the executive authorities, members of the Legislative Council and public figures. It serves for a period no longer than the expiry of the CE’s term of office (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b).

  • Legislative Council and District Councils

The Legislative Council is the law-making body of Hong Kong currently comprising 70 members. It also debates issues of public interest, examines and approves budgets, receives and debates the Chief Executive’s policy addresses, and endorses the appointment and removal of the judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b). The terms of the Legislative Council are four years.

The District Councils, currently consisting of 479 seats, undertakes improvement projects and promote recreational, cultural, and community activities in their respective districts. They also advise the Government on matters that affect the well-being of residents and the adequacy and priorities of government programmes (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b). The terms of the District Council are also four years.

  • The Judiciary

The Basic Law ensures that Hong Kong remains within the common law system. It is independent from the legislative and executive branches of government, with the courts showing no bias. For the most serious types of criminal offences, a jury decides whether the accused is guilty or not, with a majority vote required. The Court of Final Appeal is the highest appellate court and is headed by the Chief Justice (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b).


HKSAR Government. (2019, May-b). Government Structure. Retrieved from https://www.gov.hk/en/about/govdirectory/govstructure.htm