Legislative Council Today
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 (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China, which came into effect on the same day, the HKSAR shall be vested with legislative power and the Legislative Council shall be the legislature of the Region.
Articles 66 to 79 of the Basic Law provide for the formation, powers and functions of the Legislative Council. The main functions of the Legislative Council are to enact laws; examine and approve budgets, taxation and public expenditure; monitor the work of the Government; and endorse the appointment and removal of the judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court. It also has the power to impeach the Chief Executive.
Articles 49 and 50 of the Basic Law state that if the Chief Executive considers that a bill passed by the Legislative Council is not compatible with the overall interests of the Region and returns it to the Legislative Council for reconsideration, and if the original bill is passed by the Legislative Council again by not less than a two-thirds majority of all the Members, the Chief Executive must sign and promulgate it within one month, or dissolve the Legislative Council in accordance with Article 50 of the Basic Law. But if the original bill is passed by the new Legislative Council by not less than a two-thirds majority of all the Members, the Chief Executive must sign it or resign. The new powers of the Legislative Council are to ensure that there are adequate checks and balances between the executive branch and the legislature of the Region.
The extent of the autonomy of the HKSAR in making its own laws is also described in the Basic Law. Under Article 17 of the Basic Law, laws enacted by the legislature of the Region must be reported to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for the record. If the Standing Committee, after consulting the Committee for the Basic Law of the HKSAR under it, considers that any such law is not in conformity with the provisions of the Basic Law regarding affairs within the responsibility of the Central Authorities or regarding the relationship between the Central Authorities and the Region, the Standing Committee may return the law in question but shall not amend it. Any law returned shall immediately be invalidated, but the invalidation shall have no retrospective effect.
Composition of the Legislative Council
The first Legislative Council of the HKSAR has 60 Members, with 20 Members returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections, 30 Members returned by functional constituencies, and 10 Members returned by an Election Committee comprising 800 elected representatives of the community.
The election for the first Legislative Council of the HKSAR was held on 24 May 1998. According to the Basic Law and the Legislative Council Ordinance, the term of office of Members of the first Legislative Council of the HKSAR is two years and began on 1 July 1998.
The President of the Legislative Council is elected by and from among Members of the Legislative Council.
Functions and Powers of the Legislative Council
As provided for in Article 73 of the Basic Law, the Legislative Council of the HKSAR exercises the following powers and functions:
|1.||To enact, amend or repeal laws in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and legal procedures;
|2.||To examine and approve budgets introduced by the Government;
|3.||To approve taxation and public expenditure;
|4.||To receive and debate the policy addresses of the Chief Executive;
|5.||To raise questions on the work of the Government;
|6.||To debate any issue concerning public interests;
|7.||To endorse the appointment and removal of the judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court;
|8.||To receive and handle complaints from Hong Kong residents;
|9.||If a motion initiated jointly by one-fourth of all the Members of the Legislative Council charges the Chief Executive with serious breach of law or dereliction of duty and if he or she refuses to resign, the Council may, after passing a motion for investigation, give a mandate to the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal to form and chair an independent investigation committee. The committee shall be responsible for carrying out the investigation and reporting its findings to the Council. If the committee considers the evidence sufficient to substantiate such charges, the Council may pass a motion of impeachment by a two-thirds majority of all its Members and report it to the Central People's Government for decision; and
|10.||To summon, as required when exercising the above-mentioned powers and functions, persons concerned to testify or give evidence.
Meetings of the Legislative Council
The Council normally meets every Wednesday afternoon in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building to conduct its business while in session. The normal business includes: tabling of subsidiary legislation and other papers and reports; questions for replies by the Government; the consideration of bills and resolutions; and debates on motion relating to matters of public concern. The Chief Executive also attends special Council meetings to brief Members on policy issues and to answer questions from Members.
All Council meetings are open to the public and are conducted in Cantonese, Putonghua or English with simultaneous interpretation provided. The proceedings of the meetings are recorded verbatim in the Official Record of Proceedings of the Legislative Council.
Through a system of committees, Members of the Legislative Council perform the critical roles of scrutinizing bills, controlling public expenditure and monitoring Government's performance. There are three standing committees under the Council, namely the Finance Committee, the Public Accounts Committee and the Committee on Members' Interests. Bills Committees are formed by the House Committee, as the need arises, to study Bills referred by the Council. In addition, there are 17 Panels under the Council which receive regular briefings from Government officials and examine Government policies and measures. The Committee on Rules of Procedures deliberates on the procedures and practices of the Council and its committees.
The Legislative Council operates a redress system for members of the public who may have been aggrieved by Government actions or policies. Under the system, members of the public may lodge complaints against Government departments and request Members' assistance in their dealings with the Government.
Members of the Legislative Council, in groups of six, take turns to be on duty weekly to oversee the system and to receive petitions and representations. They also take turns to be on "ward duty" during the week they are on duty to meet individual complainants and to give on-the-spot guidance to staff in processing cases.
The Legislative Council Commission
The Legislative Council Commission is a statutory body independent of the Government. It is chaired by the President and consists of 12 Members. The Commission's main function is to provide support and services to the Legislative Council through the Legislative Council Secretariat. It is empowered to employ staff of the Legislative Council Secretariat and oversee its work, determine the organization and administration of support services and facilities, formulate and execute policies on their effective operation and expend funds in ways it sees fit to support these activities.
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