Senior Unofficial Member

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Senior Unofficial Member (Chinese: 首席非官守議員), later Senior Member (Chinese: 首席議員), denotes the highest-ranking unofficial member of the Legislative Council and Executive Council of Hong Kong under Colonial British rule, which supposedly represented the opinions of the unofficial members of same to the Governor of Hong Kong.

As ethnic Chinese council members were frequently referred to as "Chinese representatives", the senior member was also known as the "Senior Chinese Representative" or Senior Chinese Unofficial Member (首席華人非官守議員).

Background[edit]

The Executive Council of Hong Kong and Legislative Council of Hong Kong were set up in 1843 composed of colonial administrators. The councils were initially chaired by the Governor of Hong Kong. The colony's subjects remained unrepresented until 1850, when the government appointed two businessmen to Legco, which included David Jardine of Jardines as the first Senior Unofficial Member to LegCo in the history of Hong Kong. It was not until 1896, on his appointment to ExCo that Catchick Paul Chater became the Senior Unofficial Member there.

Historically, ExCo Senior Unofficial Member importance greatly exceeded that of the LegCo counterpart, thus their term of office were longer. Before the Second World War, there have been only three Senior Unofficial Members in ExCo, whereas there have been four LegCo Senior Unofficial Members. Initially, membership was restricted to Europeans; ethnic Chinese were admitted at a later date. The first ethnic Chinese to be appointed LegCo Senior Unofficial Member was Ho Kai, who held the post from 1906 to 1914. The first ethnic Chinese to be appointed ExCo Senior Unofficial Member was Chau Tsun-nin, who held the post from 1953 to 1959. Prior to Chau Tsun-nin, Chow Shouson was also ExCo Senior Unofficial Member when he stood in for three months following Henry Pollock.

The ExCo Senior Unofficial Member would customarily receive knighthoods, although their LegCo counterparts would not. Pre-war ExCo and LegCo Senior Unofficial Member typically served four to five-year terms, renewable. Their seniority implied they would not remain as ordinary Legco/Exco members at the end of their terms, but would leave the council on expiry.

In 1985, indirect elections were introduced for the Legislative Council. To avoid confusion, Sir Edward Youde renamed the posts 'Senior Unofficial Member of the Executive Council' and 'Senior Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council' to 'Senior Member of the Executive Council' and 'Senior Member of the Legislative Council', respectively. The introduction in 1991 of direct elections to LegCo more than doubled the number of legislators. The directly-elected members refused to take orders from the Senior Member. Allen Lee, senior member at the time was unable to represent the council with a single voice and would occasionally have run-ins with the directly-elected members. In 1992, Governor David Wilson abolished the post of Senior Member of the Legislative Council. In 1997, after the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong, the post 'Senior Member of the Executive Council' was renamed 'Convenor of the Non-official Members of the Executive Council'.

During colonial times, the Urban Council also had a post entitled 'Senior Unofficial Member', with a similar role. However, its importance was considerably less than its ExCo and LegCo counterparts.

Statistical overview[edit]

In total there have been 26 and 11 Senior Unofficial Members respectively of LegCo and ExCo. Of these, six have served as Senior Unofficial Members in both councils: Catchick Paul Chater, Sir Henry Pollock, Chau Tsun-nin, Kan Yuet-keung, Chung Sze-yuen and Lydia Dunn.

The longest serving Senior Unofficial Members of LegCo were Sir Henry Pollock and Phineas Ryrie, who sat for 24 and 22 years respectively; The three who served the shortest duration were George Lyall, John Dent and Kwok Chan, who sat for one year. Lydia Dunn was the only female; Dhun Jehangir Ruttonjee was the only Parsee; Roger Lobo was the only Portuguese.

The longest serving Senior Unofficial Members of ExCo was Catchick Paul Chater, who served a total of 30 years; the shortest tenures was Sir Sidney Gordon, serving under one year. Lydia Dunn was the first female ExCo Senior Unofficial Member. Chater was the only Senior Unofficial Member to die in office; Chau Tsun-nin and Chau Sik-nin were the only Senior Unofficial Members drawn from the same clan.

Executive Council[edit]

Order Image Senior Unofficial Member Term start Term end
1 Sir Catchick Paul Chater.jpg Catchick Paul Chater

1900 to 1906 LegCo Senior Unofficial Member

1896 1926
2 Sir Henry Edward Pollock 2.jpg Sir Henry Pollock(Sir Henry Pollock)

Concurrently LegCo Senior Unofficial Member Chow Shouson stood in between September and December 1928

1926 December 1941
Japanese occupation of Hong Kong
3 Empty.png Arthur Morse

Later Sir Arthur Morse

May 1946 1953
4 Empty.png Chau Tsun-nin

Previously LegCo Senior Unofficial Member

1953 1959
5 Empty.png Chau Sik-nin

Previously LegCo Senior Unofficial Member

1959 1962
6 Empty.png Albert Rodrigues 1962 1974
7 Empty.png Sir Kan Yuet-keung

Previously LegCo Senior Unofficial Member

1974 March 1980
8 Empty.png Sir Sidney Gordon March 1980 August 1980
9 Empty.png Sir Sze-yuen Chung

Previously LegCo Senior Unofficial Member

August 1980 1988
10 Empty.png Lydia Dunn

Previously LegCo Senior Unofficial Member

1988 1995
11 Empty.png Rosanna Wong 1995 1997
1997 Transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China

Legislative Council[edit]

Order Image Senior Unofficial Member Term start Term end
1 Empty.png David Jardine 1850 1856
2 Empty.png Joseph Jardine 1857 1860
3 Empty.png George Lyall 1860 1860
4 Empty.png Alexander Perceval 1861 1864
5 Empty.png Francis Chomley 1864 1866
6 Empty.png John Dent 1866 1867
7 Empty.png James Whittall 1867 1867
8 Empty.png Hugh Bold Gibb 1867 1870
9 Empty.png Phineas Ryrie 1870 1892
10 Raphael Emanuel Belilios Vanity Fair 6 January 1910.jpg Emanuel Raphael Belilios 1892 1900
11 Sir Catchick Paul Chater.jpg Catchick Paul Chater

concurrently Senior Unofficial Member at LegCo

1900 1906
12 Sir Sai Ho.jpg Dr. Ho Kai 1906 1914
13 Wei Yuk.png Wei A. Yuk 1914 1917
14 Sir Henry Edward Pollock 2.jpg Sir Henry Pollock

1926 to 1941 LegCo Senior Unofficial Member Chow Shouson stood in between September and December 1928

1917 1941
Japanese occupation of Hong Kong
15 David Fortune Landale.jpg D. F. Landale 1946 1950
16 Empty.png Chau Tsun-nin

Later became ExCo Senior Unofficial Member

1950 1953
17 Empty.png Chau Sik-nin

Later became ExCo Senior Unofficial Member

1953 1959
18 Empty.png Ngan Shing-kwan 1959 1961
19 Empty.png Kwok Chan 1961 1962
20 Empty.png Dhun Jehangir Ruttonjee 1962 1968
21 Empty.png Kan Yuet-keung

Later became ExCo Senior Unofficial Member

1968 1972
22 Empty.png Woo Pak-chuen 1972 1974
23 Empty.png Chung Sze-yuen

Later became ExCo Senior Unofficial Member

1974 1978
24 OV Cheung.JPG Oswald Victor Cheung 1978 1981
25 Empty.png Roger Lobo 1981 1985
26 Empty.png Lydia Dunn

Later became ExCo Senior Unofficial Member

1985 1988
27 Allen Lee at 71demo 2008.jpg Allen Lee 1988 1992
Abolished in 1992

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]