Government Structure

Main Content

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 the principles and policies regarding Hong Kong will remain unchanged 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.

More on the Basic Law

The Chief Executive

The Chief Executive is the head of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. He or she 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 or she is assisted in policy making by the Executive Council.

More on the Chief Executive's activities

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 16 principal officials and 16 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.

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The Government

The main administrative and executive functions of government are carried out by policy bureaux and departments.

Organisation Chart of the HKSAR GovernmentPrincipal officialsPermanent secretaries and heads of government departments

The civil service employs approximately 177,000 persons (excluding judges, judicial officers, ICAC officers and locally engaged staff working in overseas Hong Kong economic and trade offices), or about 4.5 per cent of the Hong Kong's labour force. Apart from administering public services, its main tasks are to assist the Chief Executive and principal officials in formulating policies and carrying out decisions.

More on Hong Kong's civil service

Legislative Council

The Legislative Council is the law-making body of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The number of Members of the seventh term Legislative Council is increased from 70 to 90, including 40 Members returned by the Election Committee Constituency, 30 Members returned by Functional Constituencies, and 20 Members returned by Geographical Constituencies through elections. 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.

More on the Legislative CouncilMore on improving the electoral system

District Councils

The sixth-term District Councils, comprising 479 seats (452 elected seats and 27 ex officio seats assumed by chairmen of the rural committees in the New Territories), commenced on January 1, 2020. The 18 District Councils advise the HKSAR Government on, amongst others, matters affecting the well-being of the people in the districts and on the provision and use of their public facilities and services, and where funds are made available for the purpose, undertake environmental improvement projects and promote recreational, cultural and community activities within the districts.

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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.

More on the Judiciary and the laws of Hong Kong
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Last review date: September 2021