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, term of office, 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.

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 to time be required for the peace, order and good government ... of Hong Kong". The Letters Patent of 1917, which replaced the 1843 Charter, added the significant words "and consent" after the words "with the advice".

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 exercise checks and balances on the executive authorities. The following chronicles the evolution of the Legislative Council from 1843:

1843The Legislative Council was established under British rule with 4 Official Members (including the Governor who was President and Member).
1844The Council held its first meeting.
1850The first two Unofficial Members were appointed.
1857An additional 2 Official Members and 1 Unofficial Member were appointed.
1884The Council was enlarged to comprise 7 Official Members and 5 Unofficial Members, including a Chinese.
1896The Council was further enlarged and consisted of 8 Official Members and 6 Unofficial Members.
1929The Council comprised 10 Official Members and 8 Unofficial Members, including 3 Chinese and 1 Portuguese.
1976There were a maximum of 23 Official Members (including 5 ex officio) and 23 Unofficial Members.
1983There were a maximum of 29 Official Members (including 4 ex officio) and 29 Unofficial Members.
1984There were a maximum of 29 Official Members (including 4 ex officio) and 32 Unofficial Members.
1985The first ever elections to the Council were held. After the elections, there were 11 Official Members (including 4 ex officio), and 46 Unofficial Members, of which 22 were appointed by the Governor, 12 were elected from functional constituencies, 1 was elected from among members of the Urban Council, 1 was elected from among members of the Regional Council, and 10 were elected by electoral college constituency made up of members of all district boards.
1988Two more elected Members were returned from the functional constituency replacing two appointed seats.
1991A Deputy President was appointed by the Governor from among the Members to chair the sittings. There were 4 ex officio Members (including the Governor who remained President and Member but systematically absented himself from sittings), 18 appointed and 39 elected Members (21 were elected from functional constituencies and 18 by direct elections in geographical constituencies).
1993The Governor ceased to be a Member of the Legislative Council and handed over the Presidency in February to a Member elected from among the non-official Members.
1995The last Legislative Council under British rule became a fully elected legislature. Among its 60 Members, 30 came from functional constituencies, 20 were returned by direct elections in geographical constituencies, and 10 were elected by the Election Committee constituency. The President was elected from among the Members.
1996The Provisional Legislative Council (PLC) was established by the Preparatory Committee for the HKSAR by resolution at its Second Plenary Session on 24 March 1996. The 60 Members in the PLC were elected on 21 December 1996 by the 400-member Selection Committee for the First Government of the HKSAR, which also elected the first Chief Executive.
1997On 25 January 1997, the PLC convened its first meeting in Shenzhen to elect the President. It continued to hold its meetings in Shenzhen until the establishment of the HKSAR on 1 July 1999, when it started to hold its meetings in Hong Kong.
1998The elections for the first Legislative Council of the HKSAR were held on 24 May 1998. Under the Basic Law, there are 60 Members in the first Legislative Council, with 20 Members returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections, 10 Members returned by an election committee, and 30 Members returned by functional constituencies. The President was elected from among the Members. The term of office of the first Legislative Council is two years, starting from 1 July 1998.