Chief Executive of Hong Kong

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The Chief Executive of Hong Kong () is the President of the Executive Council of Hong Kong and head of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The position was created to replace the Governor of Hong Kong, who was the head of the Hong Kong government during British rule.[1] 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 chief executive holds the title "The Honourable", and ranks first in the Hong Kong order of precedence.[2] The current chief executive is Donald Tsang.


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.[3][4] The individual must be older than 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.[3] Article 47 further requires that the Chief Executive be a person of integrity, dedicated to his or her duties.[3] In addition, according to electoral laws, anyone interested in running for Chief Executive must receive at least 100 nominations from the Election Committee prior to the election.[4]


The Chief Executive is elected by an 800-member Election Committee, an electoral college consisting of individuals (i.e. private citizens) and bodies (i.e. special interest groups) elected within 28 functional constituencies. The functional constiuencies 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.[5][6] The elected Chief Executive must then be appointed by the Central People's Government.

According to Article 46 the term of office of the Chief Executive is five years who may not serve more than two consecutive terms.[3] 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.[3]

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, 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.

The Executive Council of Hong Kong is an organ for assisting the Chief Executive in policy-making.[7] 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.[3]

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.[3] 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.[8] 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.[9] When Tung Chee Hwa assumed duty on 1 July 1997, the office of the Chief Executive was located at the 5th floor of the Central Government Offices (Main Wing).[10] 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.[11] Donald Tsang decided to return to the renovated Government House, and moved in on 12 January 2006, for both his office and residence.[12]

Criticism of the office

Since the Chief Executive is elected by a committee of 800 people rather than the general population,[13] 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."[14] There has also been criticisms that because the office is not democratically elected, the CE lacks legitimacy among the people. There is also criticism that the Office often do not represent or promote the interests of Hong Kong to the Chinese Government.

Moreover, there is criticism to the criteria of the candidate for the office must receive at least 100 nominations from the Election Committee.[4] Since the overwhelming majority of the Election Committee has ties to China, be it political or economic, this criteria is seen to be a tool to sift out any potential candidates who is 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.[15]

List of Chief Executives of Hong Kong

Order Name Assumed office Left office Notes Term
1 Tung Chee Hwa 1 July 1997 30 June 2002 1
1 July 2002 12 March 2005 Resigned before end of term 2
Sir Donald Tsang 13 March 2005 24 May 2005 Acting chief executive
Henry Tang 25 May 2005 24 June 2005 Acting chief executive
2 Sir Donald Tsang 25 June 2005 30 June 2007
1 July 2007 (incumbent) Term ends on 30 June 2012 3

See also


  1. "" Bill 1999. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  2. "" Precedence list. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  3. a b c d e f g "" HK Basic law pdf. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  4. a b c "" Nomination of Candidates. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  5. Chan, Ming K. [1997] (1997). The Challenge of Hong Kong's Reintegration With China. Hong Kong University Press. Hong Kong (China). ISBN 9622094414.
  6. Hong Kong "Hong Kong" United States Hong Kong Policy Act Report. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  7. "" Executive Council. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  8. "" Acting Chief Executive's opening statement. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  9. "" HEAD 21 – CHIEF EXECUTIVE'S OFFICE. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  10. "" Sample letter with address. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  11. "" Tung Chee-hwa: Shipping Tycoon Chosen to Govern Hong Kong. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  12. "" CE moves into Government House today. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  13. "" Background note: Hong Kong. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  14. "" HK-mainland China 1 democracy in the new HK: Is it reality or. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
  15. The Standard HK. "The" DAB is ready to rumble in suffrage polls . Retrieved on 28 March 2010.