Elections 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 not 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 they reside, 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 gives the requirements for choosing the Chief Executive, and Annex I does likewise in a more specific manner.
"The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People's Government."
"The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures."
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:
|Industrial, commercial and financial sectors||300|
|Labour, social services, religious and other sectors||300|
|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 Conference||300|
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 term of office of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be five years. He or she may serve for not more than two consecutive terms."
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). Though this did damage the credibility and integrity of the one country, two systems formula.
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.
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 2005 Hong Kong Chief Executive election 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.
The Legislative Council has 70 members, of whom 35 are elected by popular vote in geographical constituencies and District Council (Second) functional constituency, and 35 elected from other functional constituencies.
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.
|Geographical constituency||Projected population for 2020 election||Number of seats||Voting system|
|Hong Kong Island||1,268,000||6||Proportional Representation (Largest remainder method)|
|New Territories West||2,100,400||9|
|New Territories East||1,775,600||9|
There are 29 functional constituencies. The District Council (Second) FC returns five 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.
|Functional constituency[a]||Number of registered electors|
|1||Heung Yee Kuk||155||155|
|2||Agriculture and Fisheries||160||160|
|11||Architectural, Surveying and Planning||6,117||6,117|
|14||Real Estate and Construction||441||286||727|
|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|
|28||District Council (First)||425||425|
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, and five new directly elected Functional Constituency seats are created.
Plugging the by-election "loophole"
In mid-May 2011, the government, which considered the resignations leading to "de facto referendum" (2010 Hong Kong by-election) '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. The plan attracted criticism from Pan-Democrats; even its allies in the legislature expressed reservations about the workability of the plan. 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.
The government tabled a bill to amend current legislation for by-elections for 13 July. 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. 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.
Electoral performances by party
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 452 constituencies for 2019, and over 7.4 million residents in Hong Kong. A member is elected from each constituency by the first-past-the-post system. The chairpersons of the 27 rural committees are ex officio members of the councils. comprising 479 members
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
Rural Representative consists of Village Representative and Kaifong Representative.
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 2019. The next Village Representative elections were held in 2023.
2019 District Council election
|Political Affiliation||Popular vote||%||% ±||Standing||Elected||±|
|Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood||77,099||2.63||1.19||21||19||7|
|Power for Democracy||69,764||2.38||2.11||22||17||13|
|Team Chu Hoi Dick of New Territories West||31,369||1.07||-||9||7||7|
|Community Sha Tin||25,509||0.87||-||6||5||1|
|Tuen Mun Community Network||20,086||0.69||-||5||4||4|
|Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre||16,176||0.55||0.56||4||4||2|
|Tin Shui Wai Connection||15,998||0.55||-||4||4||4|
|Tai Po Democratic Alliance||13,185||0.45||-||4||4||4|
|Tsz Wan Shan Constructive Power||10,160||0.35||-||2||2||2|
|Deliberation Tsuen Wan||9,516||0.32||-||3||2||1|
|Tseung Kwan O Pioneers||8,989||0.31||-||2||2||2|
|League of Social Democrats||8,384||0.29||0.16||3||2||2|
|Sai Kung Commons||4,677||0.16||-||2||2||2|
|Empowering Hong Kong||5,590||0.19||-||1||1||1|
|Fu Sun Generation||5,486||0.19||-||1||1||1|
|HTTH Environmental Concern Group||5,389||0.18||-||1||1||1|
|North District Blueprint||5,288||0.18||-||1||1||1|
|Tsing Yi People||4,727||0.16||-||1||1||1|
|Sha Tin Community Vision||4,691||0.16||-||1||1||1|
|Luen Wo United||4,491||0.15||-||1||1||1|
|Lung Mun Concern Group||4,410||0.15||-||1||1||1|
|Cheung Sha Wan West Front||4,281||0.15||-||1||1||1|
|Shau Kei Wan East Future||4,204||0.14||-||1||1||1|
|Choi Hung Estate Social Service Association||3,523||0.12||-||1||1||1|
|Cheung Sha Wan Community Establishment Power||3,359||0.11||-||1||1||1|
|Unity of San Hui||3,276||0.11||-||1||1||1|
|Tseung Kwan O Shining||3,089||0.11||-||1||1||1|
|Tsuen Wan Community Network||2,788||0.10||0.01||1||1||1|
|Victoria Social Association||2,640||0.09||-||2||1||1|
|Independent democrats and others||604,890||20.63||-||226||133||100|
|Total for pro-democracy camp||1,674,083||57.10||16.90||515||388||265|
|Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong||492,042||16.78||4.61||181||21||96|
|Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions||128,796||4.39||1.72||43||5||21|
|New People's Party||79,975||2.73||2.51||28||0||13|
|Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong||66,504||2.27||0.37||25||3||16|
|Federation of Public Housing Estates||19,495||0.66||0.42||7||3||1|
|Kowloon West New Dynamic||3,052||0.10||0.71||2||0||0|
|Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions||1,734||0.06||0.16||1||0||1|
|Total for pro-Beijing camp||1,233,030||42.06||12.55||498||62||242|
|Non-aligned independents and others||24,623||0.83||-||77||2||1|
|Total valid votes||2,931,745||99.59||-||Elected||452||-|
|Invalid votes||12,097||0.41||-||Ex officio||27||-|
|Total votes / turnout||2,943,842||71.23||24.22||Total||479||-|
2017 Chief executive election
|Votes cast / turnout||1,186||99.33%|
|Source: Election result · Turnout rate|
2016 Legislative election
||Geographical Constituencies||Traditional Functional Constituencies
||District Council (Second) FC||Total
|Total for pro-Beijing camp||871,016||40.17||2.49||16||52,745||31.54||4.62||22||801,797||41.98||3.45||2||40||3|
|Total for pan-democrats||781,168||36.02||20.14||13||98,899||59.13||3.15||7||1,108,171||58.02||7.29||3||23||3|
|Total for localists||411,893||19.00||-||6||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||6||5|
|Path of Democracy||18,112||0.84||New||0||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||0||0|
|Total for non-aligned others||103,334||4.81||3.71||0||15,613||9.33||7.78||1||-||-||-||-||1||1|
|Votes cast / turnout||2,202,283||58.28||4.97||172,820||74.33||4.68||1,983,049||57.09||5.14|
- 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.
- Williams, Mark. Competition Policy and Law in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.  (2005). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-83631-X.
- Public Consultation on the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive and for Forming the Legislative Council in 2012, Constitutional & Mainland Affairs Bureau, Government of Hong Kong, 18 November 2009
- Cheung, Gary (22 Jun 2010) "Beijing's U-turn 'to thwart radicals'", South China Morning Post
- Cheung, Gary (18 May 2011). "By-elections given a no-vote". South China Morning Post
- Fung, Wai-yee Fanny (19 May 2011). "Plan to scrap by-elections criticised". South China Morning Post
- Chong, Tanna (29 June 2011). "Government still not in clear over by-elections axe". South China Morning Post
- Fung, Wai-yee Fanny (1 July 2011). "Majority oppose polls-axe bid". South China Morning Post
- Lee, Colleen; Wong, Natalie (5 July 2011). "U-turn" Archived 16 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine. The Standard (Hong Kong)