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This page covers the scope of governance in Hong Kong, from implementation of the Basic Law to the branches of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.

The Basic Law

Under its constitutional document, the Basic Law, Hong Kong is an autonomous Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, except in defence and foreign affairs. The Basic Law guarantees that autonomy for 50 years, and designates a system of governance led by a Chief Executive and an Executive Council, with a two-tiered system of representative government and an independent judiciary.

The Chief Executive

The Chief Executive is the head of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. He is elected by a broadly representative Election Committee in accordance with the Basic Law, and is appointed by the Central People's Government. The Chief Executive is responsible for implementing the Basic Law, signing bills and budgets, promulgating laws, making decisions on government policies and issuing Executive Orders. He is assisted in policy making by the Executive Council.

Executive Council

The Executive Council assists the Chief Executive in policy-making and advises the Chief Executive on matters relating to the introduction of bills and subsidiary legislation. The Council comprises 15 principal officials and 14 non-official members. All members are appointed by the Chief Executive from among the senior officials of the executive authorities, members of the Legislative Council and public figures. They serve for a period no longer than the expiry of the Chief Executive's term of office.

The Administration

The main administrative and executive functions of government are carried out by 12 policy bureaux and 61 departments and agencies, staffed mostly by civil servants.

The civil service employs approximately 156,000 people, or about four per cent of the Hong Kong workforce. Apart from administering public services, its main tasks are to assist the Chief Executive and principal officials in formulating policies and carrying out decisions.

Legislative Council

The Legislative Council is the law-making body of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It comprises 70 members, with 35 elected directly by geographical constituencies and 35 elected by functional, occupation-based constituencies. Apart from its law-making function, the Legislative Council 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.

District Councils

The 18 District Councils have a total of 507 members, comprising 412 elected members, 68 appointed members and 27 ex officio members. All members serve four-year terms of office. The councils undertake 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.

The Judiciary

The Basic Law ensures that Hong Kong remains within the common law system. The judiciary 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.

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Last review date: November 2013

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