Chief Executive of Hong Kong
|Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
|Appointer||Premier of China, Central People's Government|
|Term length||Five Years, renewable
|Inaugural holder||Tung Chee-hwa (1997)|
|Formation||1 July 1997|
|Chief Executive of Hong Kong|
|Politics and government
of Hong Kong
The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Chinese: 香港特別行政區行政長官) is the head and representative of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and head of the Government of Hong Kong. The position was created to replace the Governor of Hong Kong, the representative of the Monarch of the United Kingdom during British rule. The office, stipulated by the Hong Kong Basic Law, formally came into being on 1 July 1997 when the sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China.
The functions of the Chief Executive include nominating principal officials for appointment by the Central People's Government of the People’s Republic of China, conducting foreign relations, appointing judges and other public officers, giving consent to legislation passed by the Legislative Council, and bestowing honours. The Basic Law grants the Chief Executive a wide range of powers, but obliges him or her, before making important policy decisions, introducing bills to the Legislative Council, making subsidiary legislation, and dissolving the Legislative Council, to act only after consultation with the Executive Council. The Executive Council consists of official and non-official members, including the Chief Secretary of Hong Kong, the most senior official and head of the Government Secretariat, in charge of overseeing the administration of the Government.
The Chief Executive holds the title "The Honourable", and ranks first in the Hong Kong order of precedence. The current Chief Executive is Leung Chun-ying who took office on 1 July 2012. The official residence of the Chief Executive is Government House in Central, Hong Kong Island
Eligibility for office
According to Article 44 of the Basic Law, the Chief Executive must be a Chinese citizen as defined by the HKSAR passport ordinance. The individual must be at least 40 years old, who is a permanent resident of the HKSAR with no right of abode in any foreign country, and has ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of no less than 20 years. Article 47 further requires that the Chief Executive be a person of integrity, dedicated to his or her duties. In addition, according to electoral laws, since the 4th term of Chief Executive election, anyone interested in running for Chief Executive must receive at least 150 nominations from the Election Committee prior to the election.
The Chief Executive is elected by a 1200-member Election Committee, an electoral college consisting of individuals (i.e. private citizens) and bodies (i.e. special interest groups) selected or elected within 28 functional constituencies, as prescribed in Annex I to the Basic Law. As a result of enabling legislation stemming from a public consultation in 2010, and its approval by the National People's Congress Standing Committee in Beijing, the number of representatives was increased from 800 to 1200.
The functional constituencies correspond to various sectors of the economy and society, each of which hold an internal election for a set number of electors. In the first election of the Chief Executive, the Committee consisted of only 400 members Election Committee. Since the second term, the Election Committee was enlarged to its current size. The elected Chief Executive must then be appointed by the Premier of the Central People's Government (State Council).
According to Article 46 the term of office of the Chief Executive is five years who may not serve more than two consecutive terms. If a vacancy appears mid-term, the new Chief Executive finishes up the previous Chief Executive's term, and each person can serve for not more than two consecutive terms. The method of selecting the Chief Executive is provided under Article 45 and Annex I of the Basic Law, and the Chief Executive Election Ordinance of Hong Kong.
Term of office
Duties and powers
Under the Basic Law the Chief Executive is the chief representative of people of Hong Kong and is the head of the government of Hong Kong, whose powers and functions include leading the government, implementing the law, signing bills and budgets passed by the Legislative Council, deciding on government policies, advising appointment and dismissal principal officials of the Government of Hong Kong to the Central People's Government (State Council), appointing judges and holders of certain public offices and to pardon or commute sentences. The position is also responsible for the policy address made to the public.
According to Article 48 of the Basic Law, the Chief Executive shall exercise the following powers and functions:
- To lead the government of the Region;
- To be responsible for the implementation of this Law and other laws which, in accordance with this Law, apply in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region;
- To sign bills passed by the Legislative Council and to promulgate laws;
- To sign budgets passed by the Legislative Council and report the budgets and final accounts to the Central People's Government for the record;
- To decide on government policies and to issue executive orders;
- To nominate and to report to the Central People's Government for appointment the following principal officials: Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of Departments, Directors of Bureaux, Commissioner Against Corruption, Director of Audit, Commissioner of Police, Director of Immigration and Commissioner of Customs and Excise; and to recommend to the Central People's Government the removal of the above-mentioned officials;
- To appoint or remove judges of the courts at all levels in accordance with legal procedures;
- To appoint or remove holders of public office in accordance with legal procedures;
- To implement the directives issued by the Central People's Government in respect of the relevant matters provided for in this Law;
- To conduct, on behalf of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, external affairs and other affairs as authorized by the Central Authorities;
- To approve the introduction of motions regarding revenues or expenditure to the Legislative Council;
- To decide, in the light of security and vital public interests, whether government officials or other personnel in charge of government affairs should testify or give evidence before the Legislative Council or its committees;
- To pardon persons convicted of criminal offences or commute their penalties; and
- To handle petitions and complaints.
The Executive Council of Hong Kong is an organ for assisting the Chief Executive in policy-making. The council is consulted before making important policy decisions, introducing bills to the Legislative Council, making subordinate legislation or dissolving the Legislative Council.
Article 52 stipulates circumstances under which the Chief Executive must resign. Examples include the loss of ability to discharge his or her duties or refusal to sign a bill passed by a two-thirds majority of the Legislative Council.
Acting and succession
The acting and succession line is spelled out in Article 53. If the Chief Executive is not able to discharge his or her duties for short periods (such as during overseas visits), the duties would be assumed by the Chief Secretary for Administration, the Financial Secretary or the Secretary for Justice, by rotation, in that order, as acting chief executive. In case the position becomes vacant, a new Chief Executive would have to be elected. The provisions of inability to exercise the powers come into force, and then a new election is held on the Sunday on or immediately following the 120th day after the vacancy accordingly. No election is required, of course, if only one candidate is nominated.
Residence and office
Prior to the handover in 1997, the office of the Chief Executive-designate was at the 7th floor of the Asia Pacific Finance Tower. When Tung Chee Hwa assumed duty on 1 July 1997, the office of the Chief Executive was located at the 5th floor of the Former Central Government Offices (Main Wing). In the past the governor had his office at the Government House. Tung did not use the Government House as the primary residence because he lived at his own residence at Grenville House. Donald Tsang decided to return to the renovated Government House during his first term, and moved in on 12 January 2006, for both his office and residence. In 2011, the office of the Chief Executive moved to the low block of the new Central Government Complex in Tamar. The Government House continues to serve as the official residence of the Chief Executive.
Former Chief Executives
Upon retirement, former Chief Executives have access to office space at 28 Kennedy Road at the former Queen's College building (built in 1900s). The office provides administrative support to former Chief Executives to perform promotional, protocol-related, or any other activities in relation to their former official role. The activities include receiving visiting dignitaries and delegations, giving local and overseas media interviews, and taking part in speaking engagements.
Former Chief Executives are provided with office accommodation and administrative support as well as a car with driver service to discharge promotional and protocol-related functions. Depending on the Police's assessment, personal security protection would be provided. Former Chief Executives also enjoy protocol arrangements and medical and dental care.
The former Chief Executive holds the title "The Honourable", and ranks third in the Hong Kong order of precedence.
Remuneration of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong is among the highest in the world for a political leader, and second only to that of the Prime minister of Singapore. The pay level took a cue from the handsome amounts paid to the city's colonial governors – worth $273,000 per annum plus perks in 1992 – and is 25 times more than Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. In 2005, then-CE CH Tung received some HK$3 million ($378,500). From 2009 until the end of 2014, the salary for the job stood at HK$4.22 million. In January 2015, CY Leung reversed a pay freeze imposed in 2012, resulting in its increase to HK$4.61 million ($591,000).
Criticism of the office
Since the Chief Executive is elected by a committee of 1,200 select people, rather than the general population, many people, in particular the pro-democrats, have criticised the office as undemocratic, and have criticised the entire election process as a "small-circle election."
Moreover, there is criticism to the criterion of the candidate for the office must receive at least 150 nominations from the Election Committee. Since the overwhelming majority of the Election Committee has ties to China, be it political or economic, this criterion is seen to be a tool to sift out any potential candidates who are not in favour with the Chinese Government. Many events, including 2010 events such as the Five Constituencies Referendum have attempted to push for greater democracy and universal suffrage.
In January 2015, when CY Leung reversed a pay freeze on the CE and senior civil servants imposed in 2012, he was accused of granting himself a pay rise by stealth and going against the trend of top politicians taking pay cuts instead of pay increases.
List of chief executives of Hong Kong
Political party: Nonpartisan
- For the purposes of numbering, the "Number" is defined as an uninterrupted period of time in office served by one person and the "Term" is defined as a five-year term in office of the Chief Executive as stated in the Basic Law of Hong Kong.
- Resigned, Donald Tsang served as acting chief between 13 March to 24 May 2005, and Henry Tang served between 25 May to 24 June 2005.
- Article 43, Hong Kong Basic Law: "The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be the head of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and shall represent the Region"
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