Governance and Change Post-1997


Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 in a long-planned and negotiated handover. However, this did not mean rapid absorption into mainland China systems of law, government and economic organisation, but rather a continuity of systems in Hong Kong under a continued distinct status billed as ‘One Country, Two Systems’, underpinned constitutionally through the Basic Law. Hong Kong is a ‘Special Administrative Region’ (SAR), financially autonomous and responsible for all matters except defence and foreign affairs. It is governed by an Executive Council, appointed by the State Council, and led by a Chief Executive (CE) indirectly elected by an ‘Election Committee’ representing a range of ‘functional constituencies’. There is a Legislative Council (LegCo), half directly elected via geographical constituencies and half indirectly elected via functional constituencies, which enacts and amends laws and budgets. Policy is administered through 12 Policy Bureaux, one of which covers Housing and Transport. As noted earlier, planning rests with a quasi-independent Town Planning Board. In addition, a local government structure has evolved entailing 18 District Councils (formerly Boards) which are predominantly elected; however, these councils have limited powers and responsibilities, which do not include planning or housing provision.

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