Hong Kong 2003
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The System of Government - Legislative Council

Powers and Functions

As provided for in Article 73 of the Basic Law, the Legislative Council of the HKSAR exercises the following powers and functions:


To enact, amend or repeal laws in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and legal procedures;


To examine and approve budgets introduced by the Government;


To approve taxation and public expenditure;


To receive and debate the policy addresses of the Chief Executive;


To raise questions on the work of the Government;


To debate any issue concerning public interests;


To endorse the appointment and removal of the judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court;


To receive and handle complaints from Hong Kong residents;


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 CPG for decision; and


To summon, as required when exercising the above-mentioned powers and functions, persons concerned to testify or give evidence.


Under the Basic Law, the Legislative Council of the HKSAR is constituted by election. The election of the second term of the Legislative Council was held on September 10, 2000.

The 60 members of the council's second term comprise 24 members returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections, 30 members returned by functional constituencies representing different sectors of the community, and six members returned by an Election Committee comprising 800 elected representatives of the community. The President of the Legislative Council is elected by and from among members of the council.

The second term of office of the Legislative Council began on October 1, 2000, and in accordance with the Basic Law and the Legislative Council Ordinance, the term of office is four years (2000-2004).

Meetings of the Legislative Council

The Legislative Council normally meets on Wednesday afternoons in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building to conduct business which includes the tabling of subsidiary legislation and other papers and reports for the council's consideration; asking of questions for replies by the Government; the introduction and consideration of bills and proposed resolutions; and debates on motions concerning matters of public interest.

All Legislative Council meetings are open to the public and are conducted in Cantonese or English with simultaneous interpretation provided. Putonghua may be used where requested by members, with simultaneous interpretation provided. The proceedings of the meetings are recorded verbatim in the Official Record of Proceedings of the Legislative Council.

During the 2002-03 legislative session (from October 2002 to September 2003), the Legislative Council held 36 meetings. Four of these were devoted to the Chief Executive's Question and Answer Sessions. The council passed a total of 34 bills and asked 615 questions and 1 006 supplementary questions. Altogether, 250 items of subsidiary legislation were tabled in the council for consideration through the negative vetting procedure. Of the items tabled, 212 were not amended, 24 were amended and two were repealed. The scrutiny of the remaining 12 items continued in the next session. The Administration moved 22 motions relating to subsidiary legislation through the positive vetting procedure and two motions under Article 73(7) of the Basic Law to endorse the appointment of judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court. Members of the council moved two motions concerning the council's procedural matters, one motion to invoke the council's powers to order attendance of witnesses and production of documents under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance and 55 motion debates on issues concerning public interests. One adjournment debate was moved by a member to allow members to express their opinions on an issue concerning public interests, with a view to eliciting a reply from the Administration.

Finance Committee

The Finance Committee consists of all Members of the Legislative Council except the President. The Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the committee are elected from among its members. The committee normally meets in public on Friday afternoons to scrutinise and approve public expenditure proposals put forward by the Government. Its work includes the scrutiny of the annual Budget presented by the Financial Secretary to the Legislative Council during the proceedings related to the Appropriation Bill, which sets out the Government's annual expenditure proposals for the following financial year. During the 2002-03 session, the committee held 18 meetings and examined a total of 70 financial proposals.

There are two subcommittees under the Finance Committee. They are the Establishment Subcommittee and the Public Works Subcommittee, both of which also conduct meetings in public. Their respective memberships are open to all members of the Finance Committee.

The Establishment Subcommittee examines and makes recommendations to the Finance Committee on the Government's proposals for the creation, redeployment and deletion of directorate posts, and for changes to the structure of grades and ranks in the Civil Service. During the 2002-03 session, the subcommittee held nine meetings and examined a total of 19 proposals put forward by the Administration.

The Public Works Subcommittee examines and makes recommendations to the Finance Committee on the Government's expenditure proposals under the Capital Works Reserve Fund for projects in the Public Works Programme and building projects carried out by or on behalf of subvented organisations. During the 2002-03 session, the subcommittee held 16 meetings and examined a total of 78 proposals put forward by the Administration.

Public Accounts Committee

The Public Accounts Committee considers reports of the Director of Audit on the accounts of the Government and the results of his value-for-money audits of government departments and other organisations that are within the purview of public audit. It may invite government officials and staff of public organisations to attend public hearings to give explanations, evidence or information, or any other persons to assist it in relation to such explanations, evidence or information. The seven members of the committee are appointed by the President of the Legislative Council in accordance with the election procedure determined by the council's House Committee.

During the session under review, the committee examined the Director of Audit's Report on the Accounts of the Government of the HKSAR for the year ended March 31, 2002, and the Director's two Reports on the Results of Value for Money Audits. The committee held 11 public hearings and 29 internal meetings during the period. The conclusions and recommendations of the committee are contained in its Report Nos. 39 and 40 tabled in the Legislative Council on February 19 and July 9, 2003, respectively.

Committee on Members' Interests

The Committee on Members' Interests considers matters pertaining to the declaration of interests and matters of ethics in relation to the conduct of Members of the Legislative Council. It is also empowered to investigate complaints regarding members' registration and declaration of interests, and make recommendations to the council relating to matters concerning members' interests. The committee examines arrangements for the compilation, maintenance and accessibility of the Register of Members' Interests. The committee comprises seven members who are appointed by the President of the Legislative Council in accordance with the election procedure determined by the House Committee. During the session under review, the committee held two meetings.

House Committee

The House Committee consists of all members except the President. The Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the committee are elected by the members of the House Committee. The committee normally meets on Friday afternoons and is responsible for dealing with matters related to the work of the Legislative Council and preparing members for council meetings. It decides whether bills committees or subcommittees should be formed to scrutinise bills and subsidiary legislation. During the 2002-03 session, a total of 32 regular meetings of the House Committee were held.

The House Committee also holds special meetings to discuss issues of public concern. During the session under review, the committee held two special meetings to discuss with the Chief Secretary for Administration various issues of public concern.

Committee on Rules of Procedure

The Committee on Rules of Procedure is responsible for reviewing the Rules of Procedure of the Legislative Council and its committees, and proposing to the council such amendments or changes as are considered necessary. The committee consists of 12 members who are appointed by the President of the Legislative Council in accordance with the election procedure determined by the House Committee. During the session under review, the committee held a total of seven meetings.

Bills Committees

Any member, other than the President, may join a bills committee formed by the House Committee to consider the principles, general merits, and detailed provisions of a bill allocated to it for scrutiny. It may also propose amendments relevant to the bill. A bills committee usually tables a report in council after it has completed its task. It is dissolved on the passage of the bill concerned through the Legislative Council or when the House Committee so decides. During the 2002-03 session, the Legislative Council set up 30 bills committees to scrutinise bills introduced into the council, including the Betting Duty (Amendment) Bill 2003, Companies (Amendment) Bill 2002, Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2001, Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) (Amendment) Bill 2001, National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill, and Village Representative Elections Bill.

Subcommittees on Subsidiary Legislation

During the 2002-03 session, 26 subcommittees were formed by the House Committee to consider 44 items of subsidiary legislation tabled in council, and seven proposed resolutions presented by the Government to the council for its approval.


The Legislative Council has established 18 panels to monitor and examine the Government's policies and issues of public concern which relate to their respective policy areas. These panels also give views on major legislative or financial proposals before their introduction into the Legislative Council or the Finance Committee, and examine relevant policy matters referred to them.

Select Committees

The Legislative Council may appoint select committees to enable members to consider matters in depth. Select committees report to the council after they have completed consideration of such matters.

In response to public concern over the quality of public housing, the Legislative Council appointed a Select Committee on February 7, 2001 to inquire into the matter. The Select Committee submitted its first report to the council on January 22, 2003.

Redress System

The Legislative Council operates a redress system under which members of the public may seek assistance for redressing any grievance which resulted from implementation of government actions or policies and lodge complaints against government departments and other organisations. The redress system operates on a weekly roster with groups of six council members taking turns to receive and handle complaints and representations from the public. They also take turns to be on 'ward duty' during their duty week to meet individual complainants and to give guidance to staff in processing cases.

The Legislative Council Commission and Secretariat

The Legislative Council Commission is a statutory body independent of the Government. It is chaired by the President of the Legislative Council and consists of 12 other members. The commission's main function is to provide support and services for the Legislative Council through the Legislative Council Secretariat. It is empowered to employ staff of the Legislative Council Secretariat and oversee its work, determine the organisation 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.

The Legislative Council Secretariat is headed by the Secretary General. Its mission is to provide efficient administrative, secretariat and research support for the council and its committees, enhance the community's understanding of the activities of the council and ensure an effective avenue for redress.

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