Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) - Government
Hong Kong, with an estimated 6,940,432 people (as of July 2006), has a partly popularly elected legislature and operates under the Basic Law, which embodies the principle of “one country, two systems” and states that the socialist system and policies shall not be practiced in Hong Kong; Hong Kong’s previous capitalist system and lifestyle are to remain unchanged until 2047. The Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR was adopted on April 4, 1990, by the National People’s Congress (NPC) and came into effect on July 1, 1997.
The Chief Executive is chosen by an 800-person selection committee [later increased to 1,200 members] composed of individuals who are either directly elected, indirectly elected, or appointed. The Chief Executive supervises a cabinet of principal officers whom he appoints.
The power of the Legislative Council (legislature or LegCo) is significantly circumscribed by the Basic Law. The legislature is composed of 24 directly elected members representing geographic districts, 30 indirectly elected members representing “small circle” functional (occupational) constituencies, and 6 members elected indirectly by an election committee. Majorities are required in both the geographic and the functional constituencies to pass legislation introduced by individual legislators. Members may not initiate legislation involving public expenditure, political structure, government operations, or government policy.
A portion of the LegCo was elected by a subset of voters representing “functional constituencies” (FCs) that speak for key economic and social sectors. Under this structure some individuals were able to control multiple votes for LegCo members. The constituencies that elected the 30 FC LegCo seats had fewer voters in total than the constituency for a single geographical constituency (GC) seat, of which there were 30 in the LegCo. Beginning in September 2012, voters were able to elect five newly created FC seats in the district council sector, known as “super seats.” These five LegCo members were elected by voters who were not otherwise represented in any FC.
Hong Kong retains the British Common Law tradition. By law and tradition, the judiciary is independent and the Basic Law vests Hong Kong's highest court with the power of final adjudication; however, under the Basic Law, the Standing Committee of the PRC's National People's Congress (NPC) has the power of final interpretation of the Basic Law.
It maintains its own currency, the Hong Kong dollar, and its cherished civil liberties, such as freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Its official languages are Chinese and English. As a separate economic entity, the Hong Kong SAR is an active and separate member of the World Trade Organization and APEC. It maintains three Economic and Trade Offices (ETOs) in the U.S., namely in Washington D.C.; New York and San Francisco. The ETOs are responsible for strengthening Hong Kong’s economic, trade, investment, and cultural ties with its trading partners.
The law provides for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a generally supportive government combined to promote freedom of speech and of the press. Nevertheless, there were complaints lodged by free media groups about what they viewed as increasing challenges in this area. The law provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
The government routinely issued the required “letter of no objection” for public meetings and demonstrations, and the overwhelming majority of protests occurred without serious incident. Government statistics indicated that an average of seven to eight “public events” occurred every day. A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views. Prominent human rights activists critical of the central government also operated freely and maintained permanent resident status in the SAR.
There are around 3.6 million British passport-holders in Hong Kong, 3.44 million of whom are British Nationals (Overseas) (BN(O)s). BN(O) passport holders enjoy British consular protection in third countries (and, for non-Chinese BN(O) passport holders, in Hong Kong and mainland China), as well as visa-free access to the UK for visits of less than six months. The UK Consulate-General in Hong Kong is the largest British consulate in the world - bigger than most British embassies - and it includes the largest British passport-issuing operation outside the UK.
US policy toward Hong Kong is stated in the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and grounded in the determination to promote Hong Kong's prosperity, autonomy, and way of life. The United States maintains substantial economic and political interests in Hong Kong. The U.S. supports Hong Kong's autonomy under the "One Country, Two Systems" framework by concluding and implementing bilateral agreements; promoting trade and investment; broadening law enforcement cooperation; bolstering educational, academic, and cultural links; supporting high-level visits of U.S. officials; and serving the large community of U.S. citizens and visitors. The United States enjoys substantial economic and social ties with Hong Kong. U.S. companies have a generally favorable view of Hong Kong's business environment, including its legal system and the free flow of information, low taxation, and infrastructure. There are some 1,400 U.S. firms, including 869 regional operations (333 regional headquarters and 536 regional offices), and over 60,000 American residents in Hong Kong.
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