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The Legislative Council, or LegCo ( ), is the unicameral legislature of Hong Kongmarker.

History

The Legislative Council of Hong Kong was created in 1843 under the authority of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandmarker. Hong Kong's first constitution , in the form of Queen Victoria's Letters Patent, was entitled the "Charter of the Colony of Hong Kong" and authorised the establishment of the Legislative Council to advise the the Governor's administration. Initially the Council had 4 official members.

The first direct election of the Legislative Council was held in 1991. In 1996, a Provisional Legislative Council‎ was unilaterally founded in Guangzhoumarker by the People's Republic of Chinamarker to replace the Legislative Council after the transfer of the sovereignty. The Legislative Council was suspended from 1997 until 1998 and temporarily replaced by the Provisional Legislative Council‎. The Provisional Council ceased operation within a year and the Legislative Council resumed its operation in 1998.

Building

Since 1985, the Legislative Council of Hong Kong has been housed in the Legislative Council Buildingmarker, the former Supreme Court building, in Central Hong Kongmarker. The statue on the Legislative Council Building is a replica of the one erected on the Old Baileymarker of London - a depiction of the goddess of justice, Themis, a legacy from the former Supreme Court.

Before 1985, the Legco met at other locations:



A new complex, to house the Legislative Council and its supporting library and offices, is planned for construction on the Tamar sitemarker, the site of the Royal Navy's former HMS Tamar base. The new complex will comprise a low block containing the Legislative Council chamber, and a high block for lawmaker's offices and the council secretariat. The project is scheduled for completion in mid-2011.

People

President of the Legislative Council

From the Legislative Council's establishment in 1843 to 1993, the Governor had always been the President and Member of the Council, and until 1917 the Governor was required to act with the advice but not necessarily the consent of the Legislative Council. The Letters Patent of 1917 changed this by requiring the Governor to act "with advice and consent" of the Council.

The President is the speaker of the council. The current president is Jasper Tsang, since 8 October 2008.

Members of the Legislative Council

The following table shows the distribution of council members and their political parties. For the list of current members of Legistative Council, see Hong Kong legislative election, 2008. All members of the LegCo are eligible to be addressed with the title of "The Honourable".

Seating arrangement

Members of the Legislative Council are seated to the left and front of the President's chair in the chambers. The three rows to the right are reserved for the secretaries and other civil servants of the government, and other people whom appear in the meetings.

Unlike many other former (or current) Commonwealth legislatures, the Hong Kong Legislative Council does not have a ceremonial mace placed in its chambers. However, the high courts of Hong Kong use a mace to open sessions and represents the authority and powers of the court.

Officers of the Legislative Council

Assisting the President are the officers of the Legco. The Clerk sits to the left of the President. The remaining officers at the large desk in the centre of the Council are the Deputy Clerk, Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General. While the Clerk faces the same direction as the President, the 3 remaining officer have chairs facing away from the President. When the CE (or Governor) is in Council, he or she will address from either a podium in front of the President or to the right of the President.

Organisation

The term of office of a legislator is four years in length, except for the first term from 1998 to 2000 which was set at two years (Article 69, Basic Law).

In the 2004 election, 30 members were directly elected by universal suffrage from geographical constituencies (GC) and 30 were elected from functional constituencies. In the previous election in 2000, 24 were directly elected, 6 elected from an 800-member electoral college called the Election Committee of Hong Kong, and 30 elected from functional constituencies. The method of election after 2007 has not been specified. The Basic Law states that the ultimate aim is the election of all the Legco members by universal suffrage (Article 68 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong).

Voting

Traditionally, the President does not vote. However, this convention is not a constitutional requirement.

Private members' bills and motions have to be passed by majorities in both chambers of the legislature - members returned from geographical constituencies and election committee, and members returned from functional constituencies. This arrangement, however, is not necessary for government bills, with only a simple majority required to secure passage.

Amendments to ordinary bills require a simple majority in each chamber, giving either chamber a veto. Meanwhile, Amendments to the Basic Law require a two-thirds vote in LegCo, without a specific requirement in each chamber. After passing LegCo, the Basic Law amendment must be approved by a supermajority of the same size among Hong Kong's delegates to the National People's Congress, and also by the Chief Executive (since veto power is given to him by Art. 159)

Implications of voting regime

Whilst the pro-government party vote usually outnumbers the pro-democracy votes, and thus allow passage of most legislation, the 2005 electoral reform package was blocked when the democrats, wielding 25 votes, caused the government to fall short of the two-thirds majority required for this amendment to the Basic Law. Professor DeGolyer of Baptist Universitymarker said that by "buying 15 functional constituency members' loyalty, the Government can block amendments to any bills, [which may account for the often] nonsensical budget decisions and puzzling allocations.

Constituencies

Geographical constituencies

The GC seats are returned by universal suffrage. The voting system adopted in these electoral districts is a system of party-list proportional representation (PR), with seats allocated by the largest remainder method using the Hare quota as the quota for election. The system is widely considered to give representative legislatures. There were 3.06 million registered voters.

Geographical constituencies No. of Seats
*1998 2000 2004 2008
Hong Kong Island 4 5 6
6
Kowloon East 3 4 5 4
Kowloon West 3 4 4 5
New Territories East 5 5 7 7
New Territories West 5 6 8 8
Total 20 24 30 30
  • Provisional Legislative Council‎


Functional constituencies

There are 28 functional constituencies (FC) represented in LegCo, representing various sectors of the community which were considered playing a crucial role in the development of Hong Kong.

In the 2000 election, 27 of the FCs returned 1 member, except the Labour functional constituency which returned 3 members, giving a total of 30 FC seats.

  • Heung Yee Kuk
  • Agriculture and fisheries
  • Insurance
  • Financial services
  • Transport
  • Accountancy
  • Finance
  • Education
  • Legal
  • Information technology
  • Medical
  • Health services
  • Architectural, surveying and planning
  • Real estate and construction
  • Social welfare
  • Tourism
  • Commercial (first)
  • Commercial (second)
  • Industrial (first)
  • Industrial (second)
  • Import and export
  • Wholesale and retail
  • Textiles and garment
  • Sport, performing arts, culture and publication
  • Catering
  • District Council
  • Labour
A simple plurality system was used for 23 of the FCs, in which an eligible voter may cast one vote. The exceptions were Labour FC in which a voter may cast up to three votes, thereby creating a block vote, and the Heung Yee Kuk, Agriculture and Fisheries, Insurance, and Transport FCs where a preferential elimination system was used due to the small number of voters. In the latter a voter must indicate preferences rather than approval/disapproval or a single choice.

Election Committee

10 LegCo members were returned by the Election Committee (EC) in the 1998 election, and 6 in the 2000 election, in accordance with Annex II of the Basic Law. Now this college of electors is used only to elect the Chief Executive. There are 800 members in the EC, coming from four sectors with 200 members each. (Basic Law, Ann.1, Sect. 2)

  • Industrial, commercial and financial sectors
  • The professions
  • Labour, social services, religious and other sectors
  • Members of the LegCo, representatives of district-based organisations, Hong Kong deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC), and representatives of Hong Kong members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).


Most of the 800 EC members were returned by earlier sub-sector elections. The 6 LegCo members were chosen by a "first-past-the-post" system, with each EC member casting a vote to choose exactly 6 candidates among themselves.

See also



External links



References

  1. http://www.legco.gov.hk/english/index.htm Paragraph three indicates Queen Victoria's Letters Patent was Hong Kong's first constitution
  2. Duties of the Clerk



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