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 of the People's Republic of China, which came into effect on the same day, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (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; and monitor the work of the Government. Unprecedented in the legislative history of Hong Kong, the Legislative Council of the HKSAR 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.

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 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. Business includes: the tabling of subsidiary legislation and other papers; reports and addresses; statements; questions; the three readings of bills; and motion debates. From time to time, the Chief Executive attends a special Council meeting to brief Members on policy issues and to answer questions from Members. All Council meetings are open to the public. The proceedings of the meetings are recorded verbatim in the Official Record of Proceedings of the Legislative Council.



Committee System

Through a system of committee, 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 Finance Committee, Public Accounts Committee and the Committee on Members' Interests. Bills Committees are formed, by the House Committee, as the need arises, to study legislative proposals. Besides, there are also 17 Panels under the Council which receive regular briefings from Government officials and examine the effectiveness of Government policies and measures.



Redress System

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 five or 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 their duty week 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 2 Members. The Commission's main function is to provide through the Legislative Council Secretariat support and services to the Legislative Council. 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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7 July 2000