The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, commonly the Hong Kong Government or simplified as GovHK, refers to the executive authorities of the Hong Kong SAR. The Government is formally led by the Chief Executive of the SAR, who nominates its principal officials for appointment by the State Council of the People's Republic of China (Central People's Government).
The Government Secretariat is headed by the Chief Secretary of Hong Kong, who is the most senior principal official of the Government. The Chief Secretary and the other secretaries jointly oversee the administration of the SAR, give advice to the Chief Executive as members of the Executive Council, and are accountable for their actions and policies to the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council.
Under the "one country, two systems" constitutional principle, the Government is exclusively in charge of Hong Kong's internal affairs and external relations. The Government of the People's Republic of China, of which the Hong Kong government is financially independent, is responsible for Hong Kong's defence and foreign policy. Despite gradually evolving, the overall governmental structure was inherited from British Hong Kong.
The Chief Executive is the head of Region and head of government of Hong Kong. The Basic Law designates a system of governance led by a Chief Executive and an Executive Council, with a two-tiered system of semi-representative government and an independent judiciary. The Chief Executive is elected by an Election Committee, a 1200-member electoral college consisting of individuals and bodies (i.e. special interest groups) elected within 28 functional constituencies defined in the Basic Law. The winner is then appointed to the position by the Premier of the People's Republic of China. The Chief Executive is responsible for implementing the Basic Law, signing bills and budgets, promulgating laws, making decisions on government policies and issuing Executive Orders. He is assisted in policy making by the Executive Council.
As of 1 July 1997, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong officially replaced the Governor of Hong Kong as the head of the government for Hong Kong following the transfer of sovereignty. The Chief Executive is assisted by the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Financial Secretary, and other secretaries who heads policy bureaux. The secretaries for each government affairs are appointed by the Chief Executive and endorsed by the Central People's Government. The Secretary for Justice (SJ) is responsible for legal matters of the government and prosecution for criminal cases in the territory. The Independent Commission Against Corruption and Audit Commission report directly to the Chief Executive. The current Chief Executive is Carrie Lam.
The Executive Council decides on matters of policy, the introduction of bills to the Legislative Council and the drafting of subordinate legislation. The Council consists of 15 principal officials and 14 non-official members. All members are appointed by the Chief Executive from among the senior officials of the executive authorities, members of the Legislative Council, and other influential public personnels. They serve for a period no longer than the expiry of the Chief Executive's term of office.
In a system popularly called the Principal Officials Accountability System introduced by then Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa in July 2002, all principal officials, including the Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary, Secretary for Justice and heads of government bureaux would no longer be politically neutral career civil servants, but would all be political appointees chosen by the Chief Executive from within or outside the civil service. The system was portrayed as the key to solve previous administrative problems, notably the co-operation of high-ranking civil servants with the Chief Executive.
Under the new system, there are 3 Secretaries of Department and 13 Directors of Bureau. The system is aimed at raising the accountability of the civil service, so the political appointees are responsible for all their job aspects and will step down if they make any failure. Under the new system, all heads of bureaux became members of the Executive Council, and came directly under the Chief Executive instead of the Chief Secretary or the Financial Secretary.
The government released a report on the Further Development of the Political Appointment System on 17 October 2007. Two new layers, Deputy Directors of Bureaux and Assistants to Directors (AD) would be added to the political appointments. Each Director of Bureau will be assisted by the two new appointees and constitute the political team, who would ostensibly work closely with bureau secretaries and top civil servants in implementing the Chief Executive's policy agenda in an executive-led government. As with the principal officials, these two new posts may be drawn from within or outside the civil service, and appointees may or may not have a political background.
Eight new Under-secretaries were named on 20 May, and nine Political Assistant appointments were announced on 22 May 2008. By the administration's own admission, the announcements were poorly handled, and there was widespread criticism of several key aspects, namely the nationality and experience of appointees, the transparency of the recruitment process and the level of officials' salaries.
The Chief Secretary for Administration is responsible for assisting the Chief Executive in the supervision of policy bureaux and plays a key role in ensuring harmony in policy formulation and implementation. The current Chief Secretary is Matthew Cheung
The Financial Secretary is responsible for preparing the Government Budget in accordance with the Chief Executive's agenda in the policy address, ensuring policy is in accordance to the Public Finance Ordinance. He has to estimate of revenue and expenditure before the Legislative Council each year, and to deliver an annual budget to the Legislative Council, outlining the government's budgetary proposals and moving the appropriation bills. The current FS is Paul Chan Mo-po.
The Office of the Chief Executive is responsible for ensuring the Chief Executive receives the best advice and support for formulating and co-ordinating policies. It is headed by the Director of the Chief Executive's Office, who would sit in meetings of the Executive Council.
The Economic Analysis and Business Facilitation Unit is under the Financial Secretary's Office.
The Department of Justice is led by the Secretary for Justice (Legal Department and Attorney General before the transfer of sovereignty). The Secretary for Justice (SJ) is responsible for all prosecutions in Hong Kong, drafting all Government legislation, and advising other policy bureaux and departments of the government on a vast array of legal issues.
The department consists of the Prosecutions Division, the Civil Division, the Legal Policy Division, the Law Drafting Division, the International Law Division, and the Administration and Development Division.
After the reorganisation in 2007, the Government Secretariat today consists of twelve policy bureaux. Nine of which reports to the Chief Secretary, and the other three reports to the Finance Secretary. The Chief Secretary is customarily considered to be the leader of the bureaux.