The Basic Law is the constitutional document of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. It enshrines the concepts of “One Country, Two Systems”, “a high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong - except as regards defence and foreign affairs - and of “Hong Kong People administering Hong Kong”.
According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s political system and way of life will remain unchanged for 50 years after 1997. Hong Kong remains a free port, a separate customs territory and an international financial centre with its own tax system and convertible currency, the Hong Kong dollar. The rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong are based on the impartial rule of law and an independent judiciary. Hong Kong remains within the common law system. The Court of Final Appeal is the highest appellate court and is headed by the Chief Justice.
The Basic Law provides that the Hong Kong SAR may on its own, using the name “Hong Kong, China”, maintain and develop relations and conclude and implement agreements with foreign states and regions and relevant international organisations, including in the economic, trade, financial and monetary, shipping, communications, tourism, cultural and sports fields.
It also provides that the Hong Kong SAR may establish official or semi-official economic and trade missions in foreign countries. The global network of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices is established in accordance with this provision.
The power of interpretation of the Basic Law is vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (SCNPC). The SCNPC shall authorise the courts of the Hong Kong SAR to interpret on their own, in adjudicating cases, the provisions of the Basic Law which are within the limits of the autonomy of the Hong Kong SAR.
The Basic Law designates a system of governance led by a Chief Executive and an Executive Council, with a two-tiered system of representative government and an independent judiciary.
The Chief Executive is the head of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. He or she is elected by a broadly representative Election Committee and is appointed by the Central People’s Government. The Chief Executive is assisted and advised in policy making by an Executive Council of 16 principal officials and 16 non-official members appointed by the Chief Executive from among the senior officials of the executive authorities, members of the Legislative Council and public figures.
The main administrative and executive functions of government are carried out by policy bureaux and departments. The civil service employs approximately 177,000 persons or about 4.5% of the Hong Kong’s labour force. Apart from administering public services, its main tasks are to assist the Chief Executive and Principal Officials in formulating policies and carrying out decisions.
The Legislative Council is the law-making body of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The number of Members of the seventh term Legislative Council is increased from 70 to 90, including 40 Members returned by the Election Committee Constituency, 30 Members returned by Functional Constituencies, and 20 Members returned by Geographical Constituencies through elections.
The 18 District Councils advise the Government on, amongst others, matters affecting the well-being of the people in the districts and on the provision and use of their public facilities and services, and undertake environmental improvement projects and promote recreational, cultural and community activities within the districts.