Government of Hong Kong

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,[1] commonly known as the Hong Kong Government or HKSAR Government, refers to the executive authorities of Hong Kong SAR. It was formed on 1 July 1997 in accordance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1983, an international treaty lodged at the United Nations. This government replaced the former British Hong Kong Government (1842–1997). The Chief Executive and the principal officials, nominated by the chief executive, are appointed by the State Council of the People's Republic of China. The Government Secretariat is headed by the Chief Secretary of Hong Kong, who is the most senior principal official of the Government. The Chief Secretary and the other secretaries jointly oversee the administration of Hong Kong, give advice to the Chief Executive as members of the Executive Council, and are accountable for their actions and policies to the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council.[2]

Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Formation1 July 1997 (1997-07-01)
Founding documentHong Kong Basic Law
JurisdictionHong Kong
Legislative branch
LegislatureLegislative Council
Meeting placeLegislative Council Complex
Executive branch
LeaderChief Executive
AppointerPremier, State Council of China
HeadquartersCentral Government Complex
Main organExecutive Council
Departments13 (Full list)
Judicial branch
CourtCourt of Final Appeal
SeatCourt of Final Appeal Building
Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Traditional Chinese香港特別行政區政府
Simplified Chinese香港特别行政区政府
Alternative Chinese name
Cantonese YaleHēunggóng Jingfú

Under the "one country, two systems" constitutional principle, the Government is, in law, exclusively in charge of Hong Kong's internal affairs and external relations. The Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC), of which the Hong Kong government is financially independent from, is responsible for Hong Kong's defence and foreign policy. Despite gradually evolving, the overall governmental structure was inherited from British Hong Kong.

Head of government

The Chief Executive is the head of the Region and head of government of Hong Kong. The Basic Law designates a system of governance led by a Chief Executive and an Executive Council, under the principles of separation of powers,[3] with a two-tiered system of semi-representative government and an independent judiciary. The Chief Executive is elected by an Election Committee, a 1500-member electoral college consisting of individuals and bodies (i.e. special interest groups) elected within 40 functional constituencies defined in the Basic Law. The winner is then appointed to the position by the Premier of the People's Republic of China. The Chief Executive is responsible for implementing the Basic Law, signing bills and budgets, promulgating laws, making decisions on government policies, and issuing Executive Orders. The Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, began exercise of her unfettered residual powers of law-making by decree on 4 October 2019, under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, Chapter 241 of the Laws of Hong Kong, bypassing the legislature.[4][5]

As of 1 July 1997, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong officially replaced the Governor of Hong Kong as the head of the government for Hong Kong following the transfer of sovereignty. The Chief Executive is assisted by the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Financial Secretary, and other secretaries who heads policy bureaus. The secretaries for each government affairs are appointed by the State Council of China on the nomination of the Chief Executive. The Secretary for Justice (SJ) is responsible for legal matters of the government and prosecution for criminal cases in the territory. The Independent Commission Against Corruption and Audit Commission report directly to the Chief Executive. The current Chief Executive is John Lee.


Executive Council

The Executive Council decides on matters of policy, the introduction of bills to the Legislative Council and the drafting of subordinate legislation. The Council consists of 21 principal officials and 16 non-official members. All members are appointed by the Chief Executive from among the senior officials of the executive authorities, members of the Legislative Council, and other influential public personnels. They serve for a period no longer than the expiry of the Chief Executive's term of office.[6]

Principal officials

In a system popularly called the Principal Officials Accountability System introduced by then Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa in July 2002, all principal officials, including the Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary, Secretary for Justice, heads of government bureaux and the Director of the Chief Executive's Office would no longer be politically neutral career civil servants, but would all be political appointees chosen by the Chief Executive from within or outside the civil service. The system was portrayed as the key to solve previous administrative problems, notably the co-operation of high-ranking civil servants with the Chief Executive.

Under the new system, there are 3 Secretaries of Department and 13 Directors of Bureaux. The system is aimed at raising the accountability of the civil service, so the political appointees are responsible for all their job aspects and will step down if they make any failure. All heads of bureaux became members of the Executive Council, and came directly under the Chief Executive instead of the Chief Secretary or the Financial Secretary.

Deputy ministers and political assistants

The government released a report on the Further Development of the Political Appointment System[7] on 17 October 2007.[8] Two new layers, Deputy Directors of Bureaux and Assistants to Directors (AD) would be added to the political appointments. Each Director of Bureau will be assisted by the two new appointees and constitute the political team, who would ostensibly work closely with bureau secretaries and top civil servants in implementing the Chief Executive's policy agenda in an executive-led government. As with the principal officials, these two new posts may be drawn from within or outside the civil service, and appointees may or may not have a political background.[9]

Eight new Under-secretaries were named on 20 May, and nine Political Assistant appointments were announced on 22 May 2008. By the administration's own admission, the announcements were poorly handled, and there was widespread criticism of several key aspects, namely the nationality and experience of appointees, the transparency of the recruitment process and the level of officials' salaries.[10]

Chief Secretary for Administration

The Chief Secretary for Administration is responsible for assisting the Chief Executive in the supervision of policy bureaux and plays a key role in ensuring harmony in policy formulation and implementation. The current Secretary is Chan Kwok-ki.

Financial Secretary

The Financial Secretary is responsible for preparing the Government Budget in accordance with the Chief Executive's agenda in the policy address, ensuring fiscal policies are in accordance to the Public Finance Ordinance. The secretary has to estimate of revenue and expenditure before the Legislative Council each year, and to deliver an annual budget to the Legislative Council, outlining the government's budgetary proposals and moving the appropriation bills. The current FS is Paul Chan Mo-po.

Secretary for Justice

The Secretary for Justice is responsible for prosecutions and legal matters and heads the Department of Justice. The current Secretary for Justice is Teresa Cheng.

Policy bureaux (ministries) and government departments

The hierarchical structure of the government secretariat and government departments in Chief Executive John Lee's administration since 1 July 2022 is as follows:

Government secretariat and departments, 2022-
Government secretariat Government departments
Under the Chief Secretary
for Administration
Chief Secretary for Administration's Office
  • Administrative Wing
  • Government Records Service
  • Legal Aid Department
  • Protocol Division
Civil Service Bureau
Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau
Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau
  • Leisure and Cultural Services Department
  • Tourism Commission
Education Bureau
  • Working Family and Student Financial Assistance Agency
Environment and Ecology Bureau
  • Environment Branch
  • Food Branch
Health Bureau
Home and Youth Affairs Bureau
  • Home Affairs Department
  • Information Services Department
Labour and Welfare Bureau
  • Labour Department
  • Social Welfare Department
Security Bureau
Under the Financial
Financial Secretary's Office
  • Office of the Government Economist
Commerce and Economic Development Bureau
Development Bureau
  • Planning and Lands Branch
  • Works Branch
Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau
  • Financial Services Branch
  • The Treasury Branch
Housing Bureau
  • Housing Department
Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau
  • Innovation and Technology Commission
  • Office of the Government Chief Information Officer
  • Efficiency Office
Transport and Logistics Bureau

Office of the Chief Executive

The Office of the Chief Executive is responsible for ensuring the Chief Executive receives the best advice and support for formulating and co-ordinating policies. It is headed by the Director of the Chief Executive's Office, who would sit in meetings of the Executive Council.

The Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office, Independent Commission Against Corruption, Audit Commission, Office of the Ombudsman and Public Service Commission report to the Chief Executive directly.

Chief Secretary for Administration’s Office

The Human Resources Planning and Poverty Co-ordination Office, Administration Wing and Legal Aid Department are under the Chief Secretary for Administration's Office.

Financial Secretary's Office

The Office of the Government Economist and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority are under the Financial Secretary's Office.

Department of Justice

The Department of Justice is led by the Secretary for Justice (Hong Kong) (Legal Department and Attorney General before the transfer of sovereignty). The Secretary for Justice (SJ) is responsible for all prosecutions in Hong Kong, drafting all government legislation, and advising other policy bureaux and departments of the government on a vast array of legal issues.

The department consists of the Prosecutions Division, the Civil Division, the Legal Policy Division, the Law Drafting Division, the International Law Division and the Administration and Development Division.

Policy Bureaux

The current fifteen policy bureaux is a result of the 2022 government reorganisation, which added, expanded, and re-titled several bureaux. Currently, nine bureaux reports to the Chief Secretary for Administration, and the other six reports to the Financial Secretary. The Chief Secretary for Administration is customarily considered to be the leader of the bureaux.

  • Civil Service Bureau
  • Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau
  • Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau (newly established)
  • Education Bureau
  • Environment and Ecology Bureau (re-titled from the Environment Bureau and takes over the Food and Health Bureau except health)
  • Health Bureau (takes over health policies from the defunct Food and Health Bureau)
  • Home and Youth Affairs Bureau (reorganised from the Home Affairs Bureau)
  • Labour and Welfare Bureau
  • Security Bureau
  • Commerce and Economic Development Bureau
  • Development Bureau
  • Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau
  • Housing Bureau (split from the defunct Transport and Housing Bureau)
  • Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau (re-titled from the Innovation and Technology Bureau)
  • Transport and Logistics Bureau (split from the defunct Transport and Housing Bureau)

See also


  1. "Basic Law of Hong Kong – Chapter IV". Retrieved 16 June 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. Article 68, Hong Kong Basic Law
  3. Creery, Jennifer (1 September 2020). "No separation of powers in Hong Kong says Chief Exec. Carrie Lam, despite previous comments from top judges". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Retrieved 27 May 2022.
  4. Smith, Michael (5 October 2019). "Violence sweeps Hong Kong after face mask ban". Financial Review. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  5. "Emergency Regulations Ordinance". Hong Kong e-Legislation.
  6. "GovHK: Government Structure". Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  7. Report on Further Development of the Political Appointment System
  8. "Consultation Document on the Further Development of the Political Appointment System", Hong Kong Government, July 2006
  9. Michael Ng, "Attracting new political talent `from all sectors'" Archived 22 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, The Standard, 27 July 2006
  10. Ambrose Leung, "Tsang's assistant may face Legco censure", Pg A3, South China Morning Post, 17 June 2008
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