Hong Kong Royal Instructions

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Hong Kong Royal Instructions  (1917) 
(14th February, 1917 - 30th June, 1997)
Issued in tandem with the Hong Kong Letters Patent, and proclaimed by Governor Sir Francis Henry May on 20th April, 1917, the Hong Kong Royal Instructions formed part of the constitution of Hong Kong under British rule until the transfer of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China. Both documents were superseded on 1st July, 1997, by the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The version of the text given below omits the prefatory material, and incorporates amendments made during the currency of the instructions.

Contents

PARAGRAPH 1 - Administration of Oaths[edit]

The Governor may, whenever he thinks fit, require any person in the public service of the Colony to take the Oath of Allegiance, in the form prescribed by the Act mentioned in Our said recited Letters Patent, together with such other Oath or Oaths as may from time to time be prescribed by any laws in force in the Colony.


PARAGRAPH 2 - Constitution of Executive Council[edit]

The Executive Council of the Colony shall consist of the persons for the time being lawfully discharging the functions of Chief Secretary, of Attorney-General, and of Financial Secretary of the Colony, who are hereinafter referred to as ex officio Members, and of such other persons as We may from time to time appoint by any Instructions or Warrant under Our Sign Manual and Signet, or as the Governor in pursuance of Instructions from Us through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State may from time to time appoint by an Instrument under the Public Seal of the Colony. Persons so appointed are hereinafter referred to as Official Members or Appointed Members according as they hold, or do not hold, office under the Crown in the Colony at the time of appointment. (Amended on 17 November 1967; 28 February 1969; 24 September 1976; 1 September 1983; 9 April 1988; 19 February 1993; 4 August 1995)


PARAGRAPH 3 - Provisional appointment of Members of the Executive Council[edit]

Whenever any Member, other than an ex officio Member, of the Executive Council of the Colony shall, by writing under his hand, resign his seat in the Council, or shall die, or be declared by the Governor by an Instrument under the Public Seal of the Colony to be incapable of exercising his functions as a Member of the Council, or be absent from the Colony, or shall be acting in an office the holder of which is an ex officio Member of the Council, or shall be suspended from the exercise of his functions as a Member of the Council, or whenever the seat of any such Member shall otherwise become vacant, the Governor may, by an Instrument under the Public Seal of the Colony, provisionally appoint any public officer to be temporarily an Official Member of the Council, and any person not a public officer to be temporarily an Appointed Member of the Council in the place of the Member so resigning, or dying, or being suspended, or declared incapable, or being absent, or sitting as an ex officio Member. Such person shall forthwith cease to be a Member of the Council if his appointment is disallowed by Us, or if the Member in whose place he was appointed shall be released from suspension, or, as the case may be, shall be declared by the Governor by an Instrument under the Public Seal capable of again discharging his functions in the Council, or shall return to the Colony, or shall cease to sit in the Council as an ex officio Member. (Amended on 5 February 1971; 9 April 1988)


PARAGRAPH 4 - Such provisional appointments to be immediately reported[edit]

The Governor shall, without delay, report to Us, for Our confirmation or disallowance, through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State, every provisional appointment of any person as a Member of the said Executive Council. Every such person shall hold his place in the Council during Our pleasure, and the Governor may by an Instrument under the Public Seal revoke any such appointment.


PARAGRAPH 5[edit]

(Repealed on 1 March 1955)


PARAGRAPH 6 - Governor to communicate Instructions to Executive Council[edit]

The Governor shall forthwith communicate these Our Instructions to the Executive Council, and likewise all such others, from time to time, as We may direct, or as he shall find convenient for Our service to impart to them.


PARAGRAPH 7 - Summoning of Executive Council[edit]

The Executive Council shall not be summoned except by the authority of the Governor. (Amended on 17 November 1967)


PARAGRAPH 8 - Presiding in Executive Council[edit]

(1) The Governor shall, so far as is practicable, preside at meetings of the Executive Council.

(2) In the absence of the Governor there shall preside at any meeting of the Council-

  (a)  such Member of the Council as the Governor may appoint; or
  (b)  in the absence of a Member so appointed, the senior ex officio Member present; or
  (c)  in the absence of a Member so appointed or of an ex officio Member, the senior Official Member present.

(3) For the purposes of sub-paragraphs (b) and (c) of paragraph (2) of this clause-

  (a)  the ex officio Members of the Council shall have seniority in the
       order in which their offices are mentioned in clause II of these
       Instructions; and
  (b)  the Official Members of the Council shall have seniority according to
       the priority of their respective appointments to the Council: Provided
       that Members appointed by the same Instrument shall have seniority
       among themselves according to the order in which they are named
       therein. (Amended on 19 February 1993; 4 August 1995) (Replaced on 1
       March 1955)


PARAGRAPH 9 - Proceedings in Executive Council[edit]

(1) No business except that of adjournment shall be transacted in the Executive Council if objection is taken by any Member present that there are less than four Members present besides the Governor or the Member presiding.

(2) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (1) of this clause, the Executive Council shall not be disqualified for the transaction of business by reason of any vacancy in the membership of the Council, and any proceedings in the Council shall be valid notwithstanding that some person who was not entitled to do so took part in those proceedings.

(3) The Governor or the Member presiding, when in his opinion the business before the Executive Council makes it desirable, may summon any person to a meeting of the Council, notwithstanding that that person is not a Member of the Council. (Replaced on 17 November 1967)


PARAGRAPH 10 - Governor to consult Executive Council[edit]

In the execution of the powers and authorities granted to the Governor by Our said recited Letters Patent, he shall in all cases consult with the Executive Council, excepting only in cases relating to the appointment, disciplinary control or removal from office of a public officer or in cases which may be of such a nature that, in his judgment, Our service would sustain material prejudice by consulting the Council thereupon, or when the matters to be decided shall be too unimportant to require their advice, or too urgent to admit of their advice being given by the time within which it may be necessary for him to act in respect of any such matters. In all such urgent cases he shall, at the earliest practicable period, communicate to the Executive Council the measures which he may so have adopted, with the reasons therefor. (Amended on 28 February 1969)


PARAGRAPH 11 - Governor alone entitled to submit questions[edit]

The Governor shall alone be entitled to submit questions to the Executive Council for their advice or decision; but if the Governor decline to submit any question to the Council when requested in writing by any Member so to do, it shall be competent to such Member to require that there be recorded upon the Minutes his written application, together with the answer returned by the Governor to the same.


PARAGRAPH 12 - Governor may act in opposition to Executive Council. Reporting grounds for so doing. Members may require their adverse opinions to be recorded on Minutes[edit]

The Governor may, in the exercise of the powers and authorities granted to him by Our said recited Letters Patent, act in opposition to the advice given to him by the Members of the Executive Council, if he shall in any case deem it right to do so; but in any such case he shall fully report the matter to Us by the first convenient opportunity, with the grounds and reasons of his action. In every such case it shall be competent to any Member of the said Council to require that there be recorded at length on the Minutes the grounds of any advice or opinion he may give upon the question.


PARAGRAPH 12A - Election to Legislative Council[edit]

(1) An election for all the Members of the Legislative Council in accordance with laws in force in the Colony shall be held-

       (a) in 1995; and  (Amended on 12 October 1990)
       (b) within three months after any subsequent dissolution of the Council. 


(2) Elections for casual vacancies among the Members shall be held in accordance with laws in that behalf in force in the Colony.

(3) Subject to paragraph (1)(b), as regards an election referred to in paragraph (1), voting in respect of constituencies of different descriptions or the election of different categories of Members of the Legislative Council may take place on different days. (Added on 1 July 1994)
(Added on 4 April 1985. Amended on 1 July 1994; 17 September 1995)

PARAGRAPH 13[edit]

(Repealed on 17 September 1995)


PARAGRAPH 14[edit]

(Repealed on 17 September 1995)


PARAGRAPH 15[edit]

(Repealed on 4 January 1929)


PARAGRAPH 16[edit]

(Repealed on 17 September 1995)


PARAGRAPH 17[edit]

(Repealed on 17 September 1995)


PARAGRAPH 18[edit]

(Repealed on 17 September 1995)


PARAGRAPH 19 - Validity of proceedings and quorum[edit]

(1) The Legislative Council shall not be disqualified from the transaction of business by reason of any vacancy in the membership thereof (including any vacancy when the Council first meets after an election to elect all the Members), and any proceedings therein shall not be invalidated by any such vacancy or by any defect in the election or qualification of any Member thereof. (Amended on 17 September 1995)

(2) If at any sitting of the Legislative Council a quorum is not present and any Member who is present objects on that account to the transaction of business and, after such interval as may be prescribed by standing rules and orders of the Council, the Member presiding at the sitting ascertains that a quorum is still not present, he shall adjourn the Council.

(3) For the purpose of paragraph (2) of this clause, a quorum shall consist of twenty members including the Member presiding.

(4) A reference in these Instructions to the "Member presiding" is a reference to the President of the Legislative Council or a Member acting in his place pursuant to clause XXIII(2), as the case may be. (Added on 21 January 1994)
(Replaced on 21 May 1991. Amended on 19 February 1993; 4 August 1995)


PARAGRAPH 20[edit]

(Repealed on 1 March 1955)


PARAGRAPH 21 - Presiding in Legislative Council[edit]

(1) There shall be a President of the Legislative Council who, when present at a meeting of the Council, shall preside. The President of the Legislative Council shall be elected from amongst their number by the Members of the Council. (Replaced on 19 February 1993; 4 August 1995. Amended on 17 September 1995)

(2)-(3) (Repealed on 21 January 1994)

(4) (Repealed on 19 February 1993; 4 August 1995)

(5) (Repealed on 21 January 1994)


PARAGRAPH 21A - Sessions and sittings of Legislative Council[edit]

(1) The sessions of the Legislative Council shall commence on such date and end on such date as the Governor shall from time to time appoint by notice published in the Hong Kong Government Gazette, but the period between the last sitting of one session of the Legislative Council and the first sitting of the next session shall not exceed three months.

(2) The Governor, by notice published in the Hong Kong Government Gazette, may summon special sittings of the Legislative Council to be held in any period between the end of one session of the Council and the beginning of the next session.

(3) The consideration of any Bill or other business of the Legislative Council shall not be affected by the termination of a session and may be resumed at any subsequent sitting, but shall lapse on a dissolution of the Legislative Council. (Replaced on 9 April 1988) (Added on 4 April 1985)


PARAGRAPH 21B - Governor's attendance of Legislative Council. Attendance of Legislative Council by a public officer designated by Governor[edit]

(1) The Governor may at his discretion attend sittings of the Legislative Council, or any committee or sub-committee thereof, for the following purposes-

       (a) addressing the Council at any time as he shall think fit, 

including during a special sitting;

       (b) enabling Members of the Council to put questions to him on any 

public matter for which the Government of the Colony is responsible and receive answers thereto; and

       (c) proposing any policy, measure, bill, vote, resolution, motion 

or question for debate by and in the Council or any such committee or sub-committee.

(2) In relation to any public matter for which the Government of the Colony is responsible, the Governor at his discretion, may require and direct a public officer designated by him to attend a sitting of the Legislative Council, or a committee or sub-committee thereof, for the following purposes-

       (a) making a statement;
       (b) answering questions put by Members of the Council; and
       (c) proposing any policy, measure, bill, vote, resolution, motion 

or question for debate and in the Council, or any such committee or sub-committee.
(Added on 19 February 1993; 4 August 1995)


PARAGRAPH 22 - Questions to be decided by a majority. Original and casting vote[edit]

All questions proposed for debate in the Legislative Council shall be decided by the majority of votes, and the Member presiding shall have an original vote in common with the other Members of the Council, and also a casting vote, if upon any question the votes shall be equal. (Amended on 19 February 1993; 4 August 1995; 11 August 1995)


PARAGRAPH 23 - Rules and Orders to be made[edit]

(1) The Legislative Council may from time to time make standing rules and orders for the regulation of their own proceedings, provided such rules and orders be not repugnant to Our said recited Letters Patent, or to these Our Instructions, or to any other Instructions from Us under Our Sign Manual and Signet. (Amended on 21 January 1994)

(2) Without affecting the generality of paragraph (1), standing rules or orders made under that paragraph may make provision for a Member of the Legislative Council to act in place of the President of the Legislative Council if or whenever the President is absent or unable to act. (Added on 21 January 1994)


PARAGRAPH 24 - Questions, etc. for debate[edit]

(1) Subject to paragraph (2) of this clause, it shall be competent for any Member of the Legislative Council to propose any question for debate therein; and such question shall be debated and disposed of according to the standing rules and orders.

(2) Every Ordinance, vote, resolution, or question, the object or effect of which may be to dispose of or charge any part of Our revenue arising within the Colony, shall be proposed only by-

       (a) the Governor;
       (b) a public officer whom the Governor has designated to make such 

a proposal under clause XXIB, paragraph (2); or

       (c) a member of the Legislative Council expressly authorised or 

permitted by the Governor to make such a proposal.
(Replaced on 19 February 1993; 4 August 1995)


PARAGRAPH 25 - Rules and regulations under which Ordinances are to be enacted[edit]

In the passing of Ordinances the Governor and the Council shall observe, as far as practicable, the following Rules-

Form of enacting Ordinances

1. Laws may be enacted in English or Chinese. All laws shall be styled "Ordinances" and the enacting words shall be "enacted by the Governor of Hong Kong, with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council thereof", or the corresponding style and words in Chinese. (Replaced on 22 August 1986)

Ordinances to be numbered and methodically arranged

2. All Ordinances shall be distinguished by titles, and shall be divided into successive clauses or paragraphs numbered consecutively. The Ordinances of each year shall be distinguished by consecutive numbers, commencing in each year with the number one.
Except in the case of Bills reserved for the signification of Our pleasure, all Ordinances passed by the Legislative Council in any one year shall, if assented to by the Governor, be assented to by him in that year, and shall be dated as of the day on which the assent of the Governor is given, and shall be numbered as of the year in which they are passed. Bills not so assented to by the Governor, but reserved by him for the signification of Our pleasure, shall be dated as of the day and numbered as of the year on and in which they are brought into operation. (Amended on 9 April 1988)

Different subjects not to be mixed in same Ordinance.
No clause to be introduced foreign to what title of Ordinance imports.
Temporary Ordinances

3. Each different matter shall be provided for by a different Ordinance, without intermixing in one and the same Ordinance such things as have no proper relation to each other; and no clause is to be inserted in or annexed to any Ordinance which shall be foreign to what the title of such Ordinance imports, and no perpetual clause shall be part of any temporary Ordinance.


PARAGRAPH 26 - Description of Bills not to be assented to[edit]

The Governor shall not, except in the cases hereunder mentioned, assent in Our name to any Bill of any of the following classes-

1. Any Bill for the divorce of persons joined together in holy matrimony:

2. Any Bill whereby any grant of land or money, or other donation or gratuity, may be made to himself:

3. Any Bill affecting the Currency of the Colony or relating to the issue of Bank notes:

4. Any Bill establishing any Banking Association, or amending or altering the constitution, powers, or privileges of any Banking Association:

5. Any Bill imposing differential duties:

6. Any Bill the provisions of which shall appear inconsistent with obligations imposed upon Us by Treaty:

7. Any Bill interfering with the discipline or control of Our forces by land, sea, or air:

8. Any Bill of an extraordinary nature and importance, whereby Our prerogative, or the rights and property of Our subjects not residing in the Colony, or the trade and shipping of Our United Kingdom and its Dependencies, may be prejudiced:

9. Any Bill whereby persons not of European birth or descent may be subjected or made liable to any disabilities or restrictions to which persons of European birth or descent are not also subjected or made liable:

10. Any Bill containing provisions to which Our assent has been once refused, or which have been disallowed by Us:

Proviso in cases of emergency for immediate operation of an Ordinance

Unless in the case of any such Bill as aforesaid the Governor shall have previously obtained Our instructions upon such Bill through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State, or unless such Bill shall contain a clause suspending the operation of such Bill until the signification of Our pleasure thereupon, or unless the Governor shall have satisfied himself that an urgent necessity exists requiring that such Bill be brought into immediate operation, in which case he is authorized to assent in Our name to such Bill, unless the same shall be repugnant to the law of England, or inconsistent with any obligations imposed on Us by Treaty. But he is to Transmit to Us, by the earliest opportunity, the Bill so assented to, together with his reasons for assenting thereto.


PARAGRAPH 27 - Private Bills[edit]

Every Bill, not being a Government measure, intended to affect or benefit some particular person, association or corporate body shall contain a section saving the rights of Us, Our heirs and successors, all bodies politic and corporate, and all others except such as are mentioned in the Bill and those claiming by, from, and under them. No such Bill shall be introduced into the Legislative Council until due notice has been given by not less than two successive publications of the Bill in the Hong Kong Government Gazette, and in such other manner as may be required by the standing rules and orders for the time being in force; and the Governor shall not assent thereto in Our name until it has been so published. A certificate under the hand of the Governor shall be transmitted to Us with the Bill signifying that such publication has been made. (Amended on 17 November 1967)


PARAGRAPH 28 - Ordinances, etc. to be sent home duly authenticated[edit]

When any Ordinance shall have been passed or when any Bill shall have been reserved for the signification of Our pleasure, the Governor shall transmit to Us, through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State, for Our final approval, disallowance or other direction thereupon, a full and exact copy in duplicate of the same, duly authenticated under the Public Seal of the Colony, and by his own signature. Such copy shall be accompanied by such explanatory observations as may be required to exhibit the reasons and occasion for passing such Ordinance or Bill. (Amended on 9 April 1988)


PARAGRAPH 28A - Dissolution of Council[edit]

(1) The Governor may at any time, by Order published in the Hong Kong Government Gazette, dissolve the Legislative Council: Provided that the Legislative Council shall stand dissolved in the fourth year after the latest election for all the Members of the Legislative Council on such date as the Governor shall fix being a date not earlier than 60 days and not later than 30 days before the anniversary of that election (or if the election was held on more than one day, of the first day of that election). (Replaced on 9 April 1988. Amended on 12 October 1990; 21 May 1991)

(2) On the dissolution of the Council, all the Members shall vacate their seats:
Provided that if, for the consideration of any urgent business, the Governor shall appoint a time for a sitting of the Council after the dissolution but before the day appointed for the holding of an election for all the Members of the Legislative Council (as required by clause XIIA of these Instructions), the persons holding office as Members of the Council immediately before such dissolution shall continue to sit as Members until the commencement of the day (or, if more than one, the first day) appointed for the holding of such elections. (Added on 4 April 1985. Amended on 17 September 1995)


PARAGRAPH 29[edit]

(Repealed on 5 February 1971)


PARAGRAPH 30[edit]

(Repealed on 17 November 1967)


PARAGRAPH 31 - Surveys and reservations to be made before waste lands are disposed of. Governor not to purchase lands[edit]

Before disposing of any vacant or waste land to Us belonging, the Governor shall cause the same to be surveyed, and such reservations to be made thereout as he may think necessary for roads or other public purposes. The Governor shall not, directly or indirectly, purchase for himself any of such lands without Our special permission given through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State.


PARAGRAPH 32[edit]

(Repealed on 5 February 1971)


PARAGRAPH 33[edit]

(Repealed on 7 July 1938)


PARAGRAPH 34 - Regulation of power of pardon in capital cases. Judge's report to be laid before Executive Council. Governor to take advice of Executive Council in such cases. May exercise his own judgment; entering his reasons on Council Minutes, if unable to accept the advice of the majority.[edit]

Whenever any offender shall have been condemned by the sentence of any Court in the Colony to suffer death, the Governor shall call upon the Judge who presided at the trial to make to him a written report of the case of such offender, and shall cause such report to be taken into consideration at a meeting of the Executive Council, and he may cause the said Judge to be specially summoned to attend at such meeting and to produce his notes thereat. The Governor shall not pardon or reprieve any such offender unless it shall appear to him expedient so to do, upon receiving the advice of the Executive Council thereon; but in all such cases he is to decide either to extend or to withhold a pardon or reprieve, according to his own deliberate judgment, whether the Members of the Executive Council concur therein or otherwise, entering, nevertheless, on the Minutes of the Executive Council a Minute of his reasons at length, in case he should decide any such question in opposition to the judgment of the majority of the Members thereof. (Amended on 17 November 1967)


PARAGRAPH 35[edit]

(Repealed on 17 November 1967)


PARAGRAPH 36 - Governor's absence[edit]

The Governor shall not upon any pretence whatever quit the Colony without having first obtained leave from Us for so doing under Our Sign Manual and Signet, or through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State.

PARAGRAPH 37 - Term "the Governor" explained[edit]

In these Our Instructions the term "the Governor" shall, unless inconsistent with the context, include every person for the time being administering the Government of the Colony. "the Governor"


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