Provisional Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
|Established||25 January 1997|
|Disbanded||30 June 1998|
|Preceded by||Colonial Legislative Council|
|Succeeded by||Legislative Council HKSAR|
|Plurality-at-large by Selection Committee|
|Huaxia Art Centre (February-June 1997) |
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (1 July 1997)
Legislative Council Building (1 July 1997 - 30 June 1998)
The Provisional Legislative Council (PLC; Chinese?) was the interim legislature of Hong Kong that operated from 1997 to 1998. The legislature was founded in Guangzhou and sat in Shenzhen from 1996 (with offices in Hong Kong) until the handover in 1997 and moved to Hong Kong to serve as the temporary replacement of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong. It was established by the Preparatory Committee for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by resolution at its Second Plenary Session on 24 March 1996. The 60 members of the PLC were elected on 21 December 1996 by the 400-member Selection Committee for the First Government of the HKSAR, which also elected the first Chief Executive. The official start date for this council was on 25 January 1997.
When the Hong Kong Basic Law was promulgated on 4 April 1990, the National People's Congress (NPC) issued a decision on the same day on forming the first government and legislature of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Both the decision and the Basic Law envisioned that the Legislative Council returned from the 1995 Hong Kong legislative election would continue to operate until 1998, when the next legislative election was due.:1 The NPC decision stipulated that the first legislature was to be formed according to "principles of State sovereignty and smooth transition". More specifically, the first legislature must be set up in accordance with the NPC decision: the new legislature is to have 60 members, 20 of which returned from direct geographical constituency elections, 30 members returned by functional constituencies and 10 members returned by the then-undefined election committee.:375 If the composition of the last colonial Legislative Council conforms to the NPC decision and the Basic Law, its members who uphold the Basic Law, plead allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and meet the requirements of the Basic Law may automatically become members of the first post-handover Legislative Council.
The automatic transition (or the "through-train" model):375 was abandoned on 31 August 1994 when the NPC decided that the 1995 Legislative Council would end with British sovereignty over Hong Kong. The policy changed when the Hong Kong government decided that the 1995 legislature would be formed based on a new electoral formula proposed in the 1994 electoral reform, which was announced by Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten in October 1992. The electoral reform conformed with the seat composition described in the 1990 NPC decision, which allowed only 33 percent of the seats to be elected through universal suffrage.:28 However, China stated that the new composition contravened the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the Basic Law and the NPC decision made in 1990.:375 It also stated that the reforms were introduced unilaterally, and China was not consulted on the change in seat composition.:1
Negotiations between the British and Chinese governments on the legislative transition began in April 1993, but ended in November 1993 without reaching a consensus.:2 On 2 July 1993, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) decided to establish the Preliminary Working Committee,:2 an organisation that prepared for the establishment of the Preparatory Committee for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 1996. According to Albert Chen, the PLC was an idea of the Preliminary Working Committee.:2
On 26 January 1996, the Preparatory Committee was formed in accordance with the 1990 NPC decision.:6 At its second plenary session on 24 March 1996, the Preparatory Committee established the PLC.:6 The composition of the PLC was consistent with the 1990 NPC decision, but all members were to be chosen by the Selection Committee.:375
The Provisional Legislative Council convened its first meeting on January 25, 1997, at the Shenzhen Guesthouse Hotel in Shenzhen, when it elected its first president, Rita Fan. From 1 July 1997 to 1998 it sat at the then Legislative Council Building in Hong Kong.
The Council held 60 meetings, 17 motions and passed 13 bills introduced by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. The Legco Secretariat offices were on the 3rd Floor of the Huaxia Art Centre.
The president of the PLC was Rita Fan, who later led the legislative council following the handover.
The only officer found in the records was for the Clerk, Pauline Ng Man-Wah. Immediately after the Provisional Legislative Council was disbanded, she became the clerk of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong. She retired from this position on 28 August 2012.
The legislative functions of the PLC are described by the Preparatory Committee in 1996.:375
The legality of the PLC was challenged in the case HKSAR v Ma Wai Kwan decided by the Court of Appeal on 29 July 1997. The applicants argued that the PLC was unlawful, which the court dismissed. Among other reasons, the court held that as a local court it had no power to review an act of a sovereign authority.:633 The court reasoned that since Article 19 of the Basic Law did not expand its judicial powers and that it had no power to review the validity of a sovereign act under colonial rule, it did not hold such power after the handover.:633 While Justice Gerald Nazareth agreed with the majority decision, he questioned whether the constitutional structure of China and that of the United Kingdom were analogous. He also noted there was no "detailed review" of the Chinese constitution during the trial.:352-353Johannes Chan commented that the lack of judicial review power to review acts of Parliament reflected parliamentary supremacy, a doctrine borne out of unwritten constitutional systems.:376 Since China has a written constitution and that the Basic Law describes the relationship between Hong Kong and the central government unlike the colonial Letters Patent and the Royal Instructions, Chan questioned whether parliamentary supremacy still fully applies in Hong Kong after 1997.:377