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Politics of Hong Kong

From Academic Kids

Template:Life in Hong Kong On July 1, 1997, the People's Republic of China (PRC) resumed its exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, ending more than 150 years of British colonial control. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the PRC with a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs. According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration (1984) and the Basic Law - Hong Kong's mini-constitution - for "50 years", a slogan-type description, after transition Hong Kong will retain its political, economic, and judicial systems and unique way of life and continue to participate in international agreements and organizations as a dependent territory. For instance, the International Olympic Committee recognizes Hong Kong as a participating dependancy under the name, "Hong Kong, China", separate from the Mainland China.

Contents

Political Information

Template:Politics of Hong Kong

Region name


conventional long form: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
conventional short form: Hong Kong
Long form: 中華人民共和國香港特別行政區
Short form 香港 (pinyin: Xianggang)
abbreviation: HK, HKSAR

Data code

HK (Websites: .hk ) (Phone code: 852 )

Dependency status

Special administrative region of People's Republic of China

Government type

The government is economically very liberal and is rather democratic but with limited suffrage for special elections. The head of government (the Chief Executive of Hong Kong) is not elected directly but through an electoral college which is partially appointed with the rest elected in special elections with limited suffrage.

National holiday

National Day, 1 October; note - 1 July 1997 is celebrated as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day

Constitution:

The Basic Law: Approved in March 1990 by China's National People's Congress.

Legal system

Generally based on the English common law system.

The current legal system will stay in force until at least 30 June 2047.

Suffrage

All citizens 18 years of age and older are eligible for the direct elections, as suffrage is universal for permanent residents living in the territory of Hong Kong for the past seven years. Meanwhile, eligibility for certain indirect elections limited to about 180 000 voters in twenty-eight functional constituencies (sectors of the economy), and the Chief Executive is elected by an 800-member electoral college drawn mostly from the voters in the functional constituencies but also from religious organizations and municipal and central government bodies.

Executive branch

chief of state: President of the People's Republic of China Hu Jintao (since March 2003)
head of government: Chief Executive of Hong Kong: Donald Tsang (since 21 June 2005) [he was declared winner as only qualified on 16 June, and appointed on 21 June]
cabinet: The Executive Council consists of 14 ex-officio members and 5 non-official members; ex-officio members include:

Tung assumed office of the Chief Executive formally on July 1, 1997, following his election by the 400-member Election Committee which was in turn generated by the Preparatory Committee of the HKSAR. The process had been so designed such that Chief Executive candidates must be acceptable to the PRC Government. Tung was declared re-elected uncontested to his second term in 2002 by the judicary, as he was the only legally nominated candidate, and the Election Committee (which had newly been expanded to 800 members) did not have to go into session. The mechanism of electing the Chief Executive in the future is currently under consultation by the Government. Any bill would first have to pass on a two-thirds vote by LegCo, and gain the approval of the sitting Chief Executive, and the National People's Congress, to become an electoral law, due to the requirements laid out in Section 7 of Annex I to the Basic Law.

In 2002, Tung has changed the system of Government such that the posts of top officials are no longer civil servant posts. Instead, such posts are to be held by political appointees, and supported by career civil servants. The new system is dubbed the "accountability system" of principal officials. Under the new system, principal officials are chosen by the Chief Executive and would need to shoulder political responsibilities for their policies and decisions. They can now be more focused on political efforts such as bargaining with Legislative Council members. The system was also supposed to strengthen Tung's hold on the running of the government.

Tung resigned on March 10, and was accepted on March 12, 2005. Donald Tsang, as Chief Secretary, assumed duty as Acting Chief Executive. Tsang resigned on May 25, 2005 to contest in the by-election. The Financial Secretary assumed duty as Acting Chief Executive, whereas Michael Suen served as Acting Chief Secretary.

Overall the Civil Service maintains its quality and neutrality, operating without discernible direction from Beijing.

Legislative branch

There is a unicameral Legislative Council (often abbreviated LegCo) which functions as the main legislative body. The Third Legislative Council (term: 2004-2008) holds 60 seats, 30 having been returned from the twenty-eight functional constituencies (indirect election through the business and economic sectors) and 30 from geographical constituencies (electoral districts) by universal suffrage. The composition of LegCo's second and third terms was specified by the Basic Law (specifically Ann. 2, Sect. 1). Starting with the Second Legislative Council, members have served four-year terms. The First Legislative Council was in office only two years because of Article 69 of the Basic Law.

The geographical constituencies are elected based on proportional representation system with seats allocated according to the largest remainder method with Hare quotas. The functional constituencies are returned using two systems: 4 special functional constituencies (Heung Yee Kuk, Agricultural and Fisheries, Insurance, and Transport) elect their representatives using the preferential elimination system, one (Labour) applies Block vote, while the other 23 ordinary functional constituencies use the first past the post system.

Under the initial design, the last Legislative Council of Hong Kong under British rule was to be elected according to the Basic Law and would have become the first Legislative Council of the HKSAR. Christopher Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, had extended the electorate of functional constituencies to cover virtually all employees in Hong Kong, and the 1995 Council was therefore elected by virtual universal suffrage. The PRC government strongly criticized such an arrangement as breaching diplomatic agreements between China and the UK, and had set up a Provisional Legislative Council appointed prior to the handover to take over the role of legislature on 1 July 1997.

Elections: The first Legislative Council elections after the handover proceeded May 24, 1998, the second on September 10, 2000, and the third on September 12, 2004. Thirty seats each are returned from geographical constituencies and functional constituencies (Ann. 2, Sect. 1, Basic Law). The method of selecting legislative council seats from 2008 onwards has become a subject of intense debate in the government recently.

The elections were praised by pro-Government camp as free, open, and widely contested, but were criticized by the pro-democracy camp as unfair and not democratic enough, as some can cast more than one vote (in both geographical and functional constituencies). In all of these elections, the indirect election method spelled out by Annex II of the Basic Law caused the pro-Beijing bloc to win an overall majority of the seats, including a majority of indirectly elected positions while pro-democracy and the independents took most of the directly elected seats. For instance, the 2004 election saw the pro-Beijing camp take 23 of the 30 functional constituency seats and the democratic camp take 18 of 30 directly-elected seats, with the pro-China bloc taking the overall majority in LegCo 35 seats to 25.

2004 election results:

  • percent of vote by party - NA
  • seats by party (2000):
    • Pro-Beijing (35 in total):
      • Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong 12
      • Liberal Party 10
      • Other pro-government 13
    • Pro-democracy (25 in total):
      • Democratic Party 9
      • other pro-democracy 16

See: Hong Kong legislative election, 2004

The next election will be in 2008.

According to the Article 68 and Annex II of the Basic Law, the passage of bills and motions introduced by the government requires the approval of a simple majority of Legislative Council members present (the quorum set at one half of the members), while bills and motions introduced by Legislative Council members require simple majority votes of each of the two groups of members: those returned by functional constituencies, and those returned by geographical constituencies. As a result, a bill from the government is much easier to pass than a bill from members. This arrangement reflects the "executive-led" philosophy underlying the Basic Law, but was considered by some as weakening the role of the legislature in overseeing the government.

Judicial branch

The supreme judicial body is the Court of Final Appeal, which is given final adjudication in all cases by virtue of Article 82 of the Basic Law.

Major political issues in recent years

Right of Abode

Main article: Right of abode issue, Hong Kong

On 29 January, 1999, the Court of Final Appeal, the highest judicial authority in Hong Kong interpreted several Articles of the Basic Law, in such a way that the Government estimated would allow 1.6 million Mainland China immigrants to enter Hong Kong within ten years. This caused widespread concerns among the public on the social and economical consequences.

While some in the legal sector advocated that the National People's Congress (NPC) should be asked to amend the part of the Basic Law to redress the problem, the HKSAR Government decided to seek an interpretation to, rather than an amendment of, the relevant Basic Law provisions from the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC). The NPCSC issued an interpretation in favour of the Government in June 1999. While the full powers of NPCSC to interpret the Basic Law is provided for in the Basic Law itself, some critics argues this undermines judicial independence.

Basic Law Article 23

Main article: Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23

In 2003, the HKSAR Government proposed to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law by legislating against acts such as treason, subversion, secession and sedition. However, there are concerns that the legislation might infringe on human rights. Some are also worried that the legislation might introduce the mainland's concept of national security into the HKSAR via the proposed power of proscribing organisations that endanger the security of the state. General dissatisfaction with the Tung administration led to the 1 July protests in 2003.

After the mass protest, the Liberal Party, whose support is essential for the passage of the legislation schedule for 9 July 2003, called for a delay in passing the legislation. On 6 July, Tung Chee Hwa announced that the second reading of the proposed legislation was to be postponed after James Tien of the Liberal Party resigned from the Executive Council and would have his party members vote for a postponement.

Universal suffrage

Towards the end of 2003, the focus of political controversy shifted to the dispute of how subsequent Chief Executives get elected. The Basic Law's Article 45 stipulates that the eventual goal is universal suffrage; when and how to achieve that goal, however, remains open but controversial. Under the Basic Law, electoral law could be amended to allow for this as soon as 2007 (Ann.1, Sect.7). Arguments over this issue seemed to be responsible for a series of Mainland Chinese newspapers commentaries in February 2004 which stated that power over Hong Kong was only fit for "patriots."

The interpretation of the NPCSC to Annex I and II of the Basic Law, promulgated on April 6 2004, made it clear that the National People's Congress' support is required over proposals to amend the electoral system under Basic Law. On April 26, 2004, the Standing Committee of National People's Congress has denied the possibility of universal suffrage in 2007 (for the Chief Executive) and 2008 (for LegCo).

The NPCSC interpretation and decision were regarded as obstacles to the democratic development of Hong Kong by the democratic camp, and were criticized for lack of consultation with Hong Kong residents. On the other hand, the pro-government camp considered them to be in compliance with the legislative intent of the Basic Law and in line with the One country, two systems principle, and hoped that this would put an end to the controversies on development of political structure in Hong Kong.

The 1 July Protests

The first 1 July protest took place in 2003 after the SARS outbreak also in response to the Article 23 incident and general dissatisfaction with the Hong Kong government. Fearing of the loss of freedom of speech and other freedoms, as well as a general dissatisfaction against the Government, prompted a mass protest of hundreds of thousands of people on July 1, 2003. The planners originally wanted all four football courts in Victoria Park, but two of the courts were booked for a pro-Beijing festival and fair. The organizers originally predicted only 20,000 demonstrators would participate. The actual number ranged from 350,000 (as quoted by the police) to 700,000 (as quoted by protesters) and even 1,000,000 (quoted from a pro-Falun Gong agency), but the generally accepted figure is 500,000, which is just less than one tenth of the population. Their route stretched from Victoria Park football field through Causeway and Central to the Government's Central offices. Nonetheless, the large numbers meant that people were still starting the march as late as 10PM.

In dissatisfaction of the NPC's interpretation on Basic Law that universal suffrage is impossible for Chief Executive and Legislative Council elections in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and in fear of the loss of freedom of speech fueled by the heated patriotic debate and abrupt pause of popular radio programmes allegedly suppressed by Beijing authorities, another similar protest march occurred on the same day in 2004. The again peaceful march took the same route from last year from Victoria Park through Hennessy road and by Admiralty and Central MTR stations, and ended at the Government's Central Offices. The numbers were estimated to be 530,000 by organisers, whilst the police gave the numbers to be circa-200,000. The probable lower numbers were attributed to the fact that it was the hottest 1 July ever recorded, at 34 degrees Celsius. Another suggested reason is that a large number of people stayed up late until the early morning to watch the Euro 2004 match between Portugal and Holland. There is a noticeable fall in the general anger of the crowds when compared to the 2003 march, as attributed to the fact that the Hong Kong economy is showing signs of recovery and the dissolution of Article 23.

However there was much criticism as to the slogan for this year's protest by some Beijing bureaucrats and the pro-Beijing alliances. The phrase "Return power to the people" was particularly inflammatory because it implies that power was taken away from the people which they never really had. Some pro-democracy political leaders, like Lau Chin-shek, had considered changing the phrase, but many criticized this move even more as this was seen as a way of satisfying Beijing, and the original organizers keep the phrase all the way through. The planners instructed the protesters to wear white, as a sign of democracy. Furthermore, unlike the previous year, the protest march started as soon as the football field venues were 80% full, causing the protest to start half hour earlier. Learning from the previous year, planning was much more smooth this year, allowing more of the road to be open as well as starting earlier. Most of the protesters had finished their march by 7PM, ending earlier than the previous year.

Resignation of Tung Chee-hwa

Main article: Tung Chee Hwa's resignation

On March 12, 2005, chief executive Tung Chee-hwa resigned as the chief executive. Tung's position is currently being temporarily filled by Donald Tsang, the Secretary of Administration a popular bow tie-wearing career civil servant who was educated at Harvard and received a knighthood for his service during British colonial rule. He is only an acting chief executive serving on an interim basis in the same way he would serve if the Chief Executive was ill.

The first round of an election to replace Tung will be held on July 10.

Nationality and citizenship

Chinese nationality

Most residents of Hong Kong are Chinese citizens, by virtue of the Chinese Memorandum (http://www.info.gov.hk/trans/jd/jd6.htm) to the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Hong Kong issues the HKSAR passport (http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/hktraveldoc_1.htm) through its Immigration Department to all Chinese citizens who are permanent residents of Hong Kong and have the right of abode in Hong Kong.

The HKSAR passport is not the same as the ordinary Chinese passport (which is issued to residents of mainland China), and only permanent residents of Hong Kong who are Chinese citizens are eligible to apply. To acquire the status of permanent resident one has to have ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a period of seven years and adopted Hong Kong as the persons permanent home. Therefore, citizenships between residents of mainland China and residents Hong Kong are differentiated.

Interestingly, new immigrants from mainland China to Hong Kong are denied from getting a Chinese passport from the mainland authorities, and are not eligible for applying an HKSAR passport. They usually hold the Document of Identity (DI) as the travel document, until the permanent resident status is obtained after seven years of residence.

Naturalisation of non-Chinese citizens is not uncommon. Some who have surrendered their Chinese citizenship, usually those who have emigrated to foreign countries and have retained the permanent resident status, can apply for Chinese citizenship at the Immigration Department. Naturalisation of persons of non-Chinese race is very rare. A notable example is Michael Rowse, a permanent resident of Hong Kong and the current Director-General of Investment Promotion of Hong Kong Government, naturalised and became a Chinese citizen, for the offices of secretaries of the policy bureaux are only open to Chinese citizens.

British nationality

Hong Kong residents who were born in Hong Kong in the colonial era (about 3.5 million) could acquire the British Dependent Territories citizenship. To allow them to retain the status of British national while preventing a possible flood of immigrants from Hong Kong, the United Kingdom created a new nationality status, British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) that Hong Kong British Dependent Territories citizens could apply for. Holders of the BN(O) passports, however, have no right of abode in the UK.

British National (Overseas) status was given effect by the Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986 (http://www.britishcitizen.info/HKBNO1986.pdf). Article 4(1) of the Order provided that on and after 1 July 1987, there would be a new form of British nationality, the holders of which would be known as British Nationals (Overseas). Article 4(2) of the Order provided that adults and minors who had a connection to Hong Kong were entitled to make an application to become British Nationals (Overseas) by registration.

Becoming a British National (Overseas) was therefore not an automatic or involuntary process and indeed many eligible people who had the requisite connection with Hong Kong never applied to become British Nationals (Overseas). Acquisition of the new status had to be voluntary and therefore a conscious act. To make it involuntary or automatic would have been contrary to the assurances given to the Chinese government which led to the words "eligible to" being used in paragraph (a) of the United Kingdom Memorandum (http://www.info.gov.hk/trans/jd/jd6.htm) to the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The deadline for applications passed in 1997. Any person who failed to register as a British Nationals (Overseas) by 1 July 1997 and would thereby be rendered stateless, automatically became a British Overseas citizen under article 6(1) of the Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986 (http://www.britishcitizen.info/StatelessReductionProvisions.pdf).

After reunification, all Chinese citizens with the right of abode in Hong Kong and holding Hong Kong permanent identity cards are eligible to apply for the HKSAR passport issued by the Hong Kong Immigration Department. As the number of visa-free destinations of the HKSAR passport surprassed the BN(O) passport and the application fee for the former is lower, the HKSAR passport is becoming more popular among residents of Hong Kong. However many Hong Kong people who are eligible for both HKSAR and BN(O) passports have both passports.

Hong Kong residents who were not born in Hong Kong could only apply the Certificate of Identity (CI) from the colonial government as the travel document, and are not British nationals. Those who were born in mainland China and are permanent residents of Hong Kong are now eligible for the HKSAR passports, making the HKSAR passports more popular.

Recent changes to India's Citizenship Act, 1955 (see Indian nationality law) will also allow some children of Indian origin, born in Hong Kong after 7 January 2004 (http://www.britishcitizen.info/), who have a solely BN(O) parent to automatically acquire British Overseas citizenship at birth under the provisions for reducing statelessness in article 6(2) or 6(3) of the Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986 (http://www.britishcitizen.info/StatelessReductionProvisions.pdf). If they have acquired no other nationality after birth, they will be entitled to subsequently register for full British citizenship (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199900/ldhansrd/pdvn/lds04/text/41220w04.htm#column_WA123) with right of abode in the UK.

See also: British nationality law, nationality, citizenship

Political parties and leaders

The three main political parties are as follows. Each holds a significant portion of LegCo. Twelve members are registered as affiliated with the DAB, ten with the Liberal Party, and nine with the Democratic Party. There are also many unofficial party members: politicians who are members of political parties but have not registered such status in their election applications. There are two major blocs: the democratic camp and the pro-Beijing camp, the former pushing for rapid democratization while the latter tends to follow the Chinese government's wishes.

Others include:

Political pressure groups and leaders

See also

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