From 26 January 1841 to 30 June 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony and its first constitution, in the form of Queen Victoria's Letters Patent entitled the Charter of the Colony of Hong Kong and proclaimed at the Government House on 26 June 1843, authorized the establishment of the Legislative Council and empowered "the Governor for the time being ... with the advice of the said Legislative Council ... to make and enact all such Laws and Ordinances as may from time to time be required for the peace, order and good government ... of Hong Kong". The Letters Patent of 1888, which replaced the 1843 Charter, added the significant words "and consent" after the words "with the advice".
Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China on 1 July 1997. Under the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China ("the Basic Law"), which came into effect on the same day, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region ("HKSAR") is vested with legislative power and the Legislative Council is the legislature of the HKSAR.
Articles 66 to 79 of the Basic Law provide for, among other matters, the formation, term of office, powers and functions of the Legislative Council. 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.
The Legislative Council has undergone great changes over the past one and a half centuries and evolved from being an advisory body to a legislature with powers and functions to render checks and balances on the executive authorities. The following chronicles the evolution of the Legislative Council from 1843: