Elections in Hong Kong

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Election in Hong Kong take place when certain political offices in the government need to be filled. Every four years, half of the unicameral Legislative Council of Hong Kong's seventy seats representing the geographical constituencies are returned by the electorate; the other thirty five seats representing the functional constituencies are elected through smaller closed elections within business sectors.

Hong Kong has a multi-party system, with numerous parties in which no one party often has the chance of gaining power alone. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong is nonpartisan, but has to work with several parties to form (de facto) a coalition government.

Any Hong Kong permanent resident aged 18 or above may register as an elector in the geographical constituency in which he/she resides, except those mentally incapacitated and those serving in an armed force. Persons serving a sentence of imprisonment used to be barred from registering and voting, but a 2008 judgment by the Court of First Instance of the High Court ruled that a blanket bar was unconstitutional and that the Government had a year to change the offending provisions. The Government did not appeal the judgment, and held consultations with the public on how the law should be changed. A bill was then introduced to the LegCo, providing that no person would be barred from electoral registration or voting because of criminal conviction, even for crimes against the electoral system. It became law and entered into force on 30 October 2009.

From late 2003 on, the Government and the public have been drawing out plans of democratisation with the ultimate aim of electing a chief executive by universal suffrage after nomination by an ad hoc committee (Basic Law, Art. 45) and electing the whole Legislative Council by universal suffrage (Basic Law, Art. 68). In late 2007, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress decided that the former can be achieved in 2017 or later, and the latter can be achieved after the former has been.

Chief Executive elections

Article 45

Article 45 gives the requirements for choosing the Chief Executive, and Annex I does likewise in a more specific manner.

The specific method for selecting the Chief Executive is prescribed in Basic Law Annex I: "Method for the Selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region". The Election Committee shall be composed of 1200 members from the following sectors:

Sector Members[1]
Industrial, commercial and financial sectors300
The professions300
Labour, social services, religious and other sectors300
Members of the Legislative Council, Representatives of district-based organisations, Hong Kong deputies to the National People's Congress, Representatives of Hong Kong members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference300

Article 46

According to Article 46 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, elections for the Chief Executive are held every five years. An 800-member electoral college called the Election Committee is elected by businessmen and professionals (those eligible for functional constituencies, with less than 180 000 eligible voters), and some other sectors of the society, with each of the twenty-eight sectors of the economy receiving a set number of electoral votes. The eligible voters in each sector vote directly for the electors, who in turn cast ballots for Chief Executive.

Pursuant to the Annex II of the Basic Law, the Election Committee also selected 10 Members of the 1st LegCo by block vote in 1998. Four of the seats were reassigned to geographical constituencies for the 2nd LegCo in 2000, and the remainder for the 3rd LegCo in 2004.

The EC elections are quite irregular. They were held in 1998 and 2000, but none (except for the 2002 by-election) have been held since. The claim in Ann. 1, Sect. 2, of the Basic Law, saying that the Election Committee must be renewed at least once every five years.

Article 46 was a subject of controversy regarding the term of the newly elected Chief Executive. The article states:

The law requires a term of five years, but mainland officials have said the new leader filling-in can only serve until 2007. The matter was settled after a re-interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC).[2] Though this did damage the credibility and integrity of the one country, two systems formula.[2]

A literal interpretation would mean Tsang has to serve until 2010, but this is not common sense behaviour in most other nations; one can only complete the term of a predecessor. The Chinese government has decided that the new leader would serve until Inauguration day in 2007.

2005 Crisis

The last was held in 2002, and with the resignation of Tung Chee Hwa an election would have been called on 10 July, had the election been contested. A controversial decision by the National People's Congress stated that a resignation did not end a term, so that Donald Tsang would serve only until 2007, rather than 2010 had a term been deemed to begin with each resignation. This is in line with the practice on mainland China (see Hong Kong Basic Law Article 46). The 800-member Election Committee held a vote on a day specified by the sitting chief executive sometime during the six months of the year prior to the HKSAR's Inauguration Day, 1 July. An absolute majority of the votes (i.e. 401 votes) are required to be elected. If no candidate has a majority vote, the one with the lowest vote is eliminated for the next round until a candidate has a majority vote.

In 1997, Tung Chee Hwa was elected with eighty percent of the electoral votes against two other candidates, Mr. Peter Woo (吳光正) and Sir Ti Liang Yang (楊鐵樑). In 2002, Tung was re-elected uncontested, as he had received 713 signatures of support in the Electoral Committee, and 100 are required for nomination.(Annex I, Section 4, Basic Law)

The 2005 election provided a sense of déjà vu for many, as Donald Tsang cruised to victory with 674 nomination signatures out of a possible 796 (four seats were vacant).

The EC elections are quite irregular. They were held in 1998 and 2000, but none (except for the 2002 by-election) have been held since. The claim in Ann. 1, Sect. 2, of the Basic Law, saying that the Election Committee must be renewed at least once every five years, exposed an interesting flaw in the system that was averted when Tsang was the only candidate nominated.

The problem was that the timing is crucial for the new chief executive election after Tung Chee Hwa's resignation on 12 March 2005. Since electoral law states that an election must be held 120 days after the vacancy, an election would be held on the tenth of July. It was unclear as to the exact time period separating the election and the date of taking of office for this Election Committee. If the new EC convened prior to the chief executive election, it would be applied to select the next chief executive, but otherwise the old Election Committee dating from 2000 would have to complete the task (see Hong Kong Chief Executive election, 2005 for more information on the topic). The second round produces a further dispute, if the term of the old EC ended after the first round of voting but before the second. It would be rather insensible to use different electors for the two rounds; the same one would probably have to be prescribed.

Legislative Elections

The Legislative Council has 70 members, of whom 40 are elected by popular vote in geographical constituencies and District Council (Second) functional constituency, and 30 elected from other functional constituencies.

In Hong Kong, legislative elections are held every four years, in years evenly divisible by four. The most recent election was held on 4 September 2016.

Electoral system

The 35 geographical seats and seats of the Legislative Council are returned by proportional representation using the largest remainder method and the Hare quota in each of five constituencies. This system encourages and sustains multiple political parties.

There are 29 functional constituencies. The District Council(2nd) FC returns 5 members by proportional representation system. The other FCs return members with the first past the post method. There are no rules governing the uniformity of functional constituency elections, although some of the elections use the preferential elimination system, or instant-runoff voting.

Details of the electoral base of the functional constituencies as follows:

Functional Constituency   No. of Registered Electors  
  Note:The list do not include District Council (Second) Functional Constituency, which consisted of all other Individual Registered Elector not belong to other 28 Functional Constituencies   Bodies   Individuals   Total  
1 Heung Yee Kuk       155   155  
2 Agriculture and Fisheries   160       160  
3 Insurance   141       141  
4 Transport   178       178  
5 Education       88,964   88,964  
6 Legal       6,022   6,022  
7 Accountancy       22,089   22,089  
8 Medical       10,493   10,493  
9 Health Services       36,491   36,491  
10 Engineering       8,261   8,261  
11 Architectural, Surveying and Planning       6,117   6,117  
12 Labour   597       597  
13 Social Welfare       12,293   12,293  
14 Real Estate and Construction   441   286   727  
15 Tourism   1,236       1,236  
16 Commercial (First)   1,040       1,040  
17 Commercial (Second)   748   1,066   1,814  
18 Industrial (First)   715   0   715  
19 Industrial (Second)   805       805  
20 Finance   132       132  
21 Financial Services   578       578  
22 Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication   2,060   155   2,215  
23 Import and Export   875   619   1,494  
24 Textiles and Garment   3,579   130   3,709  
25 Wholesale and Retail   1,829   4,168   5,997  
26 Information Technology   364   5,383   5,747  
27 Catering   582   7,414   7,996  
28 District Council (First)       425   425  
  TOTAL   16,060   210,531   226,591  
  source: Constitutional & Mainland Affairs Bureau[3]          

2010 reform package

As a result of the passage of 'Amendment to method for forming the Hong Kong Legislative Council', the number of Legislative Council members is increased from 60 to 70. Five new geographical constituency seats,[3] and five new directly elected Functional Constituency seats are created.[4]

Plugging the by-election "loophole"

In mid-May 2011, the government, which considered the resignations leading to "de facto referendum" (Hong Kong by-election, 2010) 'abusive' and a waste of resources, revealed its plan to do away with by-elections entirely. Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam proposed that a Legislative Council seat in any geographical constituency or one of the newly created five-seat district council 'superconstituency' vacated by the resignation or death of a legislator would be filled by a 'leapfrog' mechanism by the next best placed candidate at the previous election.[5] The plan attracted criticism from Pan-Democrats; even its allies in the legislature expressed reservations about the workability of the plan.[6] The Bar Association severely criticised the plan, expressing concern over the constitutionality of the proposals, particularly the reasonableness on restrictions on the right to participation.[7]

The government tabled a bill to amend current legislation for by-elections for 13 July.[8] Following call by the Central Government Liaison Office to re-think, the government revised its proposal on 28 June stipulating replacement by an unsuccessful candidate on the same election ticket.[8] The government bowed to pressure and announced one week later that it would suspend reading of the bill for two months, pending consultations on the revised proposals.[9]

Electoral performances by party

New Forum1.6010.25011
Civic Act-up2.041
People Power9.7334.591
Civic Passion5.631

District Council elections

There are eighteen districts, and thus eighteen District Councils in Hong Kong, each being a city council for its district. There is one constituency for, on average, every 17,000 residents, as there are 405 constituencies for 2008, and nearly 7 million residents in Hong Kong. A member is elected from each constituency by the first-past-the-post system. The Chief Executive may appoint a set number of members to each council, totalling 102, and the chairpersons of the 27 rural committees are ex officio members of the councils.

Elections of deputies to the National People's Congress of the PRC

Article 21 of The Basic Law of HKSAR stipulates:

Chinese citizens who are residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be entitled to participate in the management of state affairs according to law. In accordance with the assigned number of seats and the selection method specified by the National People's Congress, the Chinese citizens among the residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall locally elect deputies of the Region to the National People's Congress to participate in the work of the highest organ of state power.

There are 36 Hong Kong deputies to the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), chosen by an electoral college composed of the following:

  • Members of the previous electoral college that had elected the Hong Kong deputies to the 10th NPC;
  • Hong Kong delegates of the 10th Chinese People's Political Consultation Committee;
  • Members of the Election Committee (which elects the chief executive) who are Chinese nationals, except those who opt out; and
  • The chief executive of the HKSAR;

Village Representative elections

The Court of Final Appeal ruled the Secretary for Home Affairs had to consider whether the person elected to represent a village was elected in accordance with electoral arrangements consistent with the Bill of Rights and the Sex Discrimination Ordinance whether to approve an elected Village Representative in December 2000. This decision caused Hong Kong Government to set up new arrangements for Village Representative. There are two types of Village Representatives, namely

(i) Indigenous Inhabitant Representative representing indigenous inhabitants* of an Indigenous Village; and

(ii) Resident Representative representing all residents of an Existing Village

  • Indigenous Inhabitant—in relation to an Indigenous Village that existed in 1898 (whether or not the name the Village now has is the same name it had in 1898) means

(i) a person who was in 1898 a resident of the Village; or

(ii) a person who is descended through the male line from a person mentioned in (i).

The first new arrangements Village Representative elections was held in 2003. The next Village Representative elections were held in 2007.

Latest elections

2012 Chief executive election

 Summary of the 25 March 2012 Hong Kong Chief Executive election results
Candidates Parties Votes %
Leung Chun-ying Nonpartisan 689 65.62%
Henry Tang Nonpartisan 285 27.14%
Albert Ho Democratic Party 76 7.24%
Total 1,050 100%
Valid votes1,05092.76%
Invalid votes70.59%
Blank votes756.29%
Votes cast / turnout1,13294.89%
Eligible voters 1,193
Source: Election result · Turnout rate

2016 Legislative election

 Summary of the 4 September 2016 Legislative Council of Hong Kong election results
Political affiliation
Geographical Constituencies Traditional Functional Constituencies
District Council (Second) FC Total
% ±pp
DAB 361,61716.683.547980.060.013568,56129.770.192121
BPA 49,7452.29N/A14,6222.76N/A6----70
FTU 169,8547.830.773---2233,23612.113.36051
Liberal 21,5000.991.7006,3813.823.064----41
NPP 167,5897.733.973--------31
FLU -------1----10
New Forum ----1,3890.83-1----10
Pro-Beijing others 100,7114.64N/A240,25524.07N/A5----71
Total for pro-Beijing camp 871,01640.172.491652,74531.544.6222801,79741.983.452403
Democratic 199,8769.224.4351,2310.740.290735,59738.514.25271
Civic 207,8859.594.4953,4052.041.11128,3111.48N/A060
PP–LSD 156,0197.207.392--------21
Professional Commons ----18,38410.99N/A2----20
Labour 101,8604.701.491--------13
NWSC 20,9740.971.450----303,45715.89N/A110
PTU ----45,98427.495.281----10
ADPL 33,2551.530.160----17,1750.9015.57001
Neo Democrats 31,5951.460.120----23,6311.24N/A001
Other democrats 29,7041.37N/A029,89517.87N/A3----32
Total for pan-democrats 781,16836.0220.141398,89959.133.1571,108,17158.027.293233
ALLinHK 81,4223.75New2--------22
CP–PPI–HKRO 154,1767.11N/A1--------10
Demosistō 50,8182.34New1--------11
Democracy Groundwork 38,1831.76New1--------11
Other localists 87,2944.03N/A1--------11
Total for localists 411,89319.00-6--------65
Path of Democracy 18,1120.84New0--------00
Third Side 13,4610.62New0--------00
Non-aligned independents 72,7613.36N/A015,6139.33N/A1----11
Total for non-aligned others 103,3344.813.71015,6139.337.781--- -11
Total 2,167,411100.0035167,257100.00301,909,968100.00570-
Valid votes2,167,41198.420.04167,25796.782.811,909,96896.311.15
Invalid votes34,8721.530.045,5633.222.8173,0813.721.15
Votes cast / turnout2,202,28358.284.97172,82074.334.681,983,04957.095.14
Registered voters3,779,085100.009.03232,498100.007.153,473,792100.007.89

    2015 District Council election

     Summary of the 22 November 2015 District Councils of Hong Kong election results
    Political Affiliation Popular vote % % ± Standing Elected ±
    Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong 309,26221.392.501711190
    Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions 88,2926.113.0148272
    New People's Party 75,7935.240.9442261
    Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong 27,4521.90-16104
    Liberal Party 25,1571.740.242091
    Kowloon West New Dynamic 11,6470.81-531
    New Territories Association of Societies 2,3560.160.03220
    Federation of Public Housing Estates 3,4570.24-111
    Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions 3,1680.220.06210
    New Century Forum 1,7170.12-101
    Pro-Beijing Independents 241,08816.68-178100
    Total for pro-Beijing camp 788,38954.610.814862986
    Democratic Party 196,06813.563.8695431
    Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood 55,2753.820.0326182
    Neo Democrats 42,1482.920.7716158
    Civic Party 52,3463.620.4125103
    Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre 16,1051.110.11650
    Labour Party 23,0291.59-1232
    Power for Democracy 3,9380.270.05110
    Sha Tin Community Network 3,7180.26-211
    League of Social Democrats 6,5260.451.40500
    Individuals 52,6123.64-389
    Total for Democratic Coalition for DC Election451,76531.250.0422610521
    Youngspiration 12,5200.87-911
    Democratic Alliance 5,3130.37-410
    Kowloon East Community 3,9220.27-311
    The Frontier 2,9740.21-110
    People Power 11,5030.801.19900
    Tuen Mun Community 5,1960.36-400
    Civic Passion 3,0060.21-600
    Tsz Wan Shan Constructive Power 3,6330.25-200
    North of the Rings 1,7100.12-100
    Land Justice League 1,4820.100.16100
    Tsuen Wan Dynamic for the People 1,5000.10-100
    Independent democrats and others 77,7675.38-6617
    Total for pro-democracy camp581,05840.201.0033512625
    Independent and others 75,0795.190.1911774
    Total valid votes 1,445,526 100.0 - 935 431 19
    Invalid votes 21,703
    Total (turnout 47.01%) 1,467,229

    Past elections

    See also


    1. 1 2 3 HK basic law web pdf. "HK basic law." The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative region of the People's Republic of China. Retrieved on 8 January 2007.
    2. 1 2 Williams, Mark. Competition Policy and Law in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. [2005] (2005). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-83631-X.
    3. 1 2 Public Consultation on the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive and for Forming the Legislative Council in 2012 Government of Hong Kong, 18 November 2009
    4. Cheung, Gary (22 Jun 2010) "Beijing's U-turn 'to thwart radicals'", South China Morning Post
    5. Cheung, Gary (18 May 2011). "By-elections given a no-vote". South China Morning Post
    6. Fung, Wai-yee Fanny (19 May 2011). "Plan to scrap by-elections criticised". South China Morning Post
    7. Chong, Tanna (29 June 2011). "Government still not in clear over by-elections axe". South China Morning Post
    8. 1 2 Fung, Wai-yee Fanny (1 July 2011). "Majority oppose polls-axe bid". South China Morning Post
    9. Lee, Colleen; Wong, Natalie (5 July 2011). "U-turn" Archived 16 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. The Standard (Hong Kong)
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