Hong Kong legislative elections

Legislative elections are held in Hong Kong whenever the Legislative Council needs renewal.

The LEGCO is governed by Article 73 of the Basic Law, the Legislative Council of the HKSAR exercises the following powers and functions.

The Council meets every Wednesday afternoon in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building to conduct its business while in session.

They can be held either at the expiry of a term (every four years) or if the Chief Executive dissolves the legislature and calls a new election.

Hotly contested elections for the geographical constituencies were held in 2004, 2008, and in 2012.

Members of the Legislative Council also play important functions of scrutinizing bills, controlling public expenditure and monitoring Government's performance.

The LEGCO also has Legislative Council Redress System to receive and handle complaints from members of the public who are aggrieved by Government actions or policies.

The LEGCO elections have been mocked as a weak attempt at democracy and lacks the power to make laws and be the voice of the people of Hong Kong. Even prior to the handover in 1997, the LEGCO played a lesser role to the powerful Executive Council (EXCO) as the real corridor of power in Hong Kong, though reforms made by Governor Chris Patten allowed many more HK people to participate in the functional constituency elections. These reforms were revoked by Beijing after the 1997 handover.


Formation method

In April 2004, Mr. Tung Chee-Hwa, the former Chief Executive of Hong Kong, submitted his Report to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) on whether there is a need to amend the methods for selecting the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong in 2007 and for forming the Legislative Council of Hong Kong in 2008.

On 26 April 2004, the NPCSC at its 9th session of meeting adopted a Decision (see whole text), which rejected universal suffrage in both 2007 and 2008. However, the Decision allowed appropriate amendments to the methods for selection and formation of the Chief Executive and the Legco to be made as long as they conform to the principle of gradual and orderly progress. Afterwards, the government continued to consult the public on the issues of political reform by a special commission led by the Chief Secretary for Administration. Eventually, the government tabled its motions (see whole text) on the aforesaid amendments at the Legislative Council Meeting on 21 December 2005.

The motions were considered to have no progress and improvement to the democratic development by the pro-democracy councilors. Since the government lacked the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all the members of the Legislative Council, both motions were voted down. As a result, the formation method of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong in 2008 is still subjected to the original rules set in the Annex II to the Basic Law, which states as follows:

...The Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be composed of 60 members in each term...

  • Members returned by functional constituencies 30
  • Members returned by geographical constituencies, through direct elections 30...

Voting system

The 35 geographical seats of the Legislative Council are returned by proportional representation using the largest remainder method in each of five constituencies. This system has the advantage of providing representative governments.

Twenty-three of the 29 functional constituencies use single-member district plurality to elect their members, one (Labour) applies the block vote (with three seats to be filled), and four, dubbed special functional constituencies, use the preferential elimination system (aka instant runoff voting). The newly formed District Council (Second) functional constituency uses the proportional representation system to elect 5 members from the second votes cast by the ordinary voters.

The system for geographical constituencies has evolved over time. The first popular election in 1991 used a dual-seat constituency dual vote system with two seats to be filled in each constituency, and responding to criticism, new election methods were explored, and the possibility of electoral reform was almost certain, with single non-transferable vote (SNTV) and party-list proportional representation being strongly considered. However, responding to public dissatisfication with the details, the electoral reform movement started losing popularity and, in the end, the government prescribed simple plurality as a last resort.

The problems of this system were quickly realized when the DAB obtained one-quarter of the vote and received only two out of 20 directly elected seats in the 1995 elections - the final before Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule. The artificial majority of the democratic camp received harsh criticism from the pro-Beijing camp and the Chinese government. The same two options from the last session were brought back to the agenda; and when Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa came to power, he selected proportional representation over SNTV as the new system. This system has since effectively reinforce the executive-led structure and has been retained since without substantial change.


Lists for parties and for individuals may be nominated during a two-week nomination period ending five weeks before polling day.

Deposits and refund

Each list of candidates is subject to a deposit of $50,000 for a geographical constituency, and $25,000 for a "functional constituency". Deposits are forfeit if the list (or candidate) fails to receive at least 3% of the valid votes cast in the constituency.[1]

Rebate of campaign expenses

Since the 2004 election, the Government has instituted a system to issue a rebate to candidates of $10 rebate for each vote received, capped at 50 per cent of the candidate's total election expenses. A candidate would qualify for the rebate if he/she wins a seat or secures 3% or more of the valid votes cast, and a list of candidates is qualified if one or more of its members wins a seat or the list secures 3% or more of the valid votes cast. They are entitled to one free round of promotional material sent by post, and a chance to state their platforms free of charge on RTHK.[2] Upon application, the Government will pay the difference between election expenses incurred and donations received, subject to a cap dependent on the number of votes cast for the candidate ($11 per vote at 2008).

Voter registration

Electors in a geographical constituency, must satisfy all the following requirements to be eligible:[3]

  • permanent resident of Hong Kong;
  • aged 18 years or above as at 25 July next following his application for registration (or 25 September in a District Council election year)
  • ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, and the residential address in his application for registration is his only or principal residence in Hong Kong;
  • holds a Hong Kong identity document or has applied for a new
  • not disqualified by application of s 31 of the Legislative Council Ordinance (Cap 542).


  1. Paggie Leung, "Deposit forfeitures nearly double", South China Morning Post, Page A4, 9 September 2008
  2. Leung, Ambrose (11 Dec. 2002) "Poll candidates set for $10 per vote", South China Morning Post
  3. Chapter 2, Page 2, "Guidelines on Election-related Activities in respect of the Legislative Council Elections", Electoral Affairs Commission