Hong Kong Letters Patent 1917

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ARTICLE I – Office of Governor constituted[edit]

There shall be a Governor and Commander-in-Chief in and over Our Colony of Hong Kong and its Dependencies (hereinafter called the Colony), and appointments to the said Office shall be made by Commission under Our Sign Manual and Signet.


ARTICLE II – Governor's powers and authorities[edit]

We do hereby authorize, empower, and command Our said Governor and Commander-in-Chief (hereinafter called the Governor) to do and execute all things that belong to his said office, according to the tenor of these Our Letters Patent and of any Commission issued to him under Our Sign Manual and Signet, and according to such Instructions as may from time to time be given to him, under Our Sign Manual and Signet, or by Order in Our Privy Council, or by Us through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State, and to such laws as are now or shall hereafter be in force in the Colony.


ARTICLE III – Publication of Governor's Commission. Oaths to be taken by Governor[edit]

Every person appointed to fill the office of Governor shall, with all due solemnity, before entering upon any of the duties of his office, cause the Commission appointing him to be Governor to be read and published in the presence of the Chief Justice or other Judge of the Supreme Court, and of such Members of the Executive Council of the Colony as can conveniently attend; which being done he shall then and there take before them the Oath of Allegiance (Oaths to be taken by Governor), in the form provided by an Act passed in the Session holden in the Thirty-first and Thirty-second years of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, intituled "An Act (1868 c. 72 U.K.) to amend the Law relating to Promissory Oaths"; and likewise the usual Oath for the due execution of the office of Governor and for the due and impartial administration of justice; which Oaths the said Chief Justice or Judge, or if they be unavoidably absent, the senior Member of the Executive Council then present, is hereby required to administer.


ARTICLE IV – Public Seal[edit]

The Governor shall keep and use the Public Seal of the Colony for sealing all things whatsoever that shall pass the said Public Seal.


ARTICLE V – Executive Council[edit]

There shall be an Executive Council in and for the Colony, and the said Council shall consist of such persons as We shall direct by Instructions under Our Sign Manual and Signet, and all such persons shall hold their places in the said Council during Our pleasure. The Governor may upon sufficient cause to him appearing suspend from the exercise of his functions in the Council any Member thereof pending the signification of Our pleasure, giving immediate notice to Us through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State. If the suspension is confirmed by Us through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State the Governor shall forthwith by an instrument under the Public Seal of the Colony revoke the appointment of such Member, and thereupon his seat in the Council shall become vacant.


ARTICLE VI – Legislative Council[edit]

(1) There shall be a Legislative Council in and for the Colony, and the said Council shall consist of sixty Members, being persons who are qualified for election and elected in accordance with laws in that behalf in force in the Colony and of whom-

  (a)  twenty shall have been returned in respect of geographical
       constituencies;
  (b)  thirty shall have been returned in respect of functional
       constituencies; and
  (c)  ten shall have been returned by an election committee. (Replaced on 1
       July 1994)

(2) (Repealed on 1 July 1994)

(3) Subject to any Instructions under our Sign Manual and Signet, Members shall hold their places in the Legislative Council, and vacate their seats, in accordance with laws in that behalf in force in the Colony. (Amended on 1 July 1994) (Replaced on 4 April 1985)


ARTICLE VII – Governor, with advice and consent of Council to make Laws[edit]

(1) The Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council, may make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Colony. (Amended on 4 April 1985)

(2) Without affecting the generality of paragraph (1), laws of the Colony may provide for the holding of elections as regards the election of Members of the Legislative Council. Such laws may provide for different categories of such Members and provide generally, or in relation to a particular category of Member, for-

  (a)  different systems or methods of election;
  (b)  determination of constituencies and the number of Members to be
       returned in respect thereof;
  (c)  qualifications or disqualifications, as regards electors, candidates
       for election or such Members;
  (d)  tenure of office of Members. (Replaced on 1 July 1994)

(3) Nothing in this Article shall be construed as precluding the making of laws which, as regards the election of the Members of the Legislative Council, confer on persons generally or persons of a particular description any entitlement to vote which is in addition to a vote in respect of a geographical constituency. (Added on 1 July 1994)

(4) Laws of the Colony may provide, as regards the election of the Members of the Legislative Council, for the appointment of different dates for voting to take place in respect of constituencies of different descriptions or election of different categories of Members. (Added on 1 July 1994)

(5) The provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 16 December 1966, as applied to Hong Kong, shall be implemented through the laws of Hong Kong. No law of Hong Kong shall be made after the coming into operation of the Hong Kong Letters Patent 1991 (No. 2) that restricts the rights and freedoms enjoyed in Hong Kong in a manner which is inconsistent with that Covenant as applied to Hong Kong. (Added on 8 June 1991. Amended on 1 July 1994)


ARTICLE VIII – Disallowance of Laws[edit]

We do hereby reserve to Ourselves, Our heirs and successors, full power and authority to disallow, through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State, any such law as aforesaid. Every such disallowance shall take effect from the time when the same shall be promulgated by the Governor in the Colony.


ARTICLE IX – Power of legislation reserved to the Crown[edit]

We do also reserve to Ourselves, Our heirs and successors, Our and their undoubted right, with the advice of Our or their Privy Council, to make all such laws as may appear necessary for the peace, order, and good government of the Colony.


ARTICLE X – Assent to Bills[edit]

When a Bill passed by the Legislative Council is presented to the Governor for his assent he shall, according to his discretion, but subject to any Instructions addressed to him under Our Sign Manual and Signet or through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State, declare that he assents thereto, or refuses his assent to the same, or that he reserves the same for the signification of Our pleasure.


ARTICLE XI – Reserved Bills[edit]

A Bill reserved for the signification of Our pleasure shall take effect so soon as We shall have given Our assent to the same by Order in Council, or through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State, and the Governor shall have signified such assent by message to the Legislative Council or by proclamation: Provided that no such message shall be issued after two years from the day on which the Bill was presented to the Governor for his assent.


ARTICLE XII – Governor and Legislative Council to observe Instructions[edit]

In the making of any laws the Governor and the Legislative Council shall conform to and observe all rules, regulations, and directions in that behalf contained in any Instructions under Our Sign Manual and Signet.


ARTICLE XIII – Disposal of lands[edit]

(1) The Governor, on Our behalf, may make and execute grants and dispositions of any lands within the Colony that may be lawfully granted or disposed of by Us. (Amended on 22 August 1986)

(2) The powers conferred on the Governor by this Article may be exercised on behalf of the Governor by any person authorized, whether by name or by reference to an office, to exercise those powers by the Governor and such authorization shall be notified in the Hong Kong Government Gazette.

(3) Any such authority shall be subject to such conditions and restrictions (if any) as the Governor may specify, and may be varied or revoked by the Governor, and such conditions, restrictions, variation or revocation shall be notified in the Hong Kong Government Gazette.

(4) Grants and dispositions of land made under this Article shall be made in conformity with the provisions of such Instructions as may from time to time be given to the Governor under Our Royal Sign Manual and Signet or through a Secretary of State and such laws as may for the time being be in force in the Colony. (Replaced on 26 August 1960)


ARTICLE XIV – Governor empowered to appoint Judges and other public officers[edit]

*(1) The Governor may constitute and appoint such Judges, Justices of the Peace and other public officers as may be lawfully appointed, all of whom shall, unless otherwise provided by law, hold their offices during Our pleasure. (Replaced on February 1971. Amended on 22 May 1991)

(2) The powers conferred on the Governor by this Article may, save in the case of the office of judge of the Supreme Court or judge of the District Court or the office of Chief Secretary, Attorney General or Financial Secretary and subject to such conditions and restrictions (if any) as the Governor may specify, be exercised on behalf of the Governor by any person authorised, whether by name or by reference to an office, to exercise those powers by the Governor. Any such authorisation, condition or restriction shall be notified in the Hong Kong Government Gazette. (Added on 22 May 1991)

(* The Hong Kong Letters Patent 1991 (No. 1), published as L.N. 201 of 1991, contain (inter alia) the following provision: "2(2) No appointment made to the public service of Hong Kong before the coming into operation of the Hong Kong Letters Patent 1991 (No. 1) by a person to whom a power of appointment conferred under Article XIV of the principal Letters Patent was purportedly delegated under that Article shall be called in question on the ground that the appointment was not made in accordance with Article XIV of the principal Letters Patent.")

ARTICLE XIVA – Concurrent appointments[edit]

(1) When the holder of the Office of Governor or of any office constituted under Article XIV of these Letters Patent is on leave of absence pending relinquishment of his office, it shall be lawful for another person to be appointed substantively to the same office.

(2) When two or more persons are holding the same office by reason of an appointment made pursuant to paragraph (1) of this Article, then for the purposes of Articles XVII and XVIIA of these Letters Patent and for the purpose of any function conferred upon the holder of that office, the person last appointed to the office shall be deemed to be the holder of the office. (Added on 1 March 1955)


ARTICLE XV – Grant of pardon. Remission of fines. Proviso. Banishment prohibited. Exception. Political offences[edit]

When any crime or offence has committed within the Colony, or for which the offender may be tried therein, the Governor may, as he shall see occasion, in Our name and on Our behalf, grant a pardon to any accomplice in such crime or offence who shall give such information as shall lead to the conviction of the principal offender, or of any one of such offenders, if more than one; and further, may grant to any offender convicted of any crime or offence by any court of law in the Colony (other than a court martial established under any Act of Parliament), either free or subject to such conditions as the Governor may think fit to impose, a pardon or any remission of the sentence passed on such offender, or any respite of the execution of such sentence for such period as the Governor thinks fit, and may remit any fines, penalties, or forfeitures due or accrued to Us. Provided always that the Governor shall in no case, except where the offence has been of a political nature unaccompanied by any other grave crime, make it a condition of any pardon or remission of sentence that the offender shall be banished from or shall absent himself or be removed from the Colony. (Amended on 5 February 1971)


ARTICLE XVI – Dismissal and suspension of officers[edit]

(1) Subject to the provisions of Article XVIA, the Governor may, subject to such instructions as may from time to time be given to him by Us through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State, upon sufficient cause to him appearing, dismiss or suspend from the exercise of his office any person holding any public office within the Colony, or, subject as aforesaid, may take such other disciplinary action as may seem to him desirable. (Amended on 31 May 1996)

(2) Paragraph (1) of this Article shall not apply to any person holding any of the following public offices within the Colony- Registrar of the Supreme Court Deputy Registrar, Supreme Court Assistant Registrar, Supreme Court Principal Magistrate Magistrate Special Magistrate Presiding Officer, Labour Tribunal Adjudicator, Small Claims Tribunal Coroner President, Lands Tribunal Presiding Officer, Lands Tribunal Member of the Lands Tribunal (being a member who is in the full-time service of the Crown). Chief Magistrate Principal Presiding Officer, Labour Tribunal Principal Adjudicator, Small Claims Tribunal (Added on 31 May 1996) (Replaced on 7 July 1938. Amended on 17 November 1967)


ARTICLE XVIA – Tenure of office of Supreme Court or district judge[edit]

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Article, a judge of the Supreme Court or a Judge of the District Court shall vacate his office when he attains the retiring age: Provided that, notwithstanding that he has attained the retiring age, a person holding such an office may continue in office for so long after attaining that age as may be necessary to enable him to deliver judgment or to do any other thing in relation to proceedings that were commenced before him before he attained that age.

(2) (a) For the purposes of the preceding paragraph "retiring age" means-

       (i)    in relation to the Chief Justice and any other judge of the
              Supreme Court, the age of sixty-five years; and
       (ii)   in relation to a judge of the District Court who was appointed
              to be such judge before 1st January 1987, the age of sixty
              years; and (Replaced on 9 April 1988)
       (iii)  in relation to a judge of the District Court who was appointed
              to be such judge on or after 1st January 1987, the age of
              sixty-five years. (Added on 9 April 1988)
  (b)  Notwithstanding the preceding subparagraph-
       (i)    a person may be appointed to be a judge of the Supreme Court

(whatever his age and whether or not he has previously held office as such) for a specified period or periods not exceeding five years in the aggregate;

       (ii)   the term of office of a judge of the Supreme Court (other than
              a person appointed to be a judge of the Supreme Court under
              this sub-paragraph) or a judge of the District Court referred
              to in sub-paragraph (a)(ii) may be extended for a specified
              period or periods not exceeding five years in the aggregate,
              (Replaced on 9 April 1988) and in any such case the judge shall
              accordingly be regarded for the purposes of the preceding
              paragraph as having attained the retiring age at the expiration
              of the specified period or periods. (*Note: For the avoidance
              of doubt, see p. BE (L.N. 152 of 1982) in Appendix I of the
              Revised Edition.) (Replaced on 30 April 1982)

(3) A judge of the Supreme Court or the District Court may at any time resign his office by writing under his hand addressed to the Governor.

(4) A judge of the Supreme Court or the District Court may be removed from office only for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or from any other cause) or for misbehaviour, and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (5) of this Article.

(5) A judge of the Supreme Court or the District Court shall be removed from office by the Governor by instrument under the Public Seal if the question of his removal from office has, at the request of the Governor made in pursuance of paragraph (6) of this Article, been referred by Us to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council under section 4 of the Judicial Committee Act 1833 (1833 c. 41 U.K.) or any other enactment enabling Us in that behalf, and the Judicial Committee has advised Us that the judge ought to be removed from office for inability as aforesaid or for misbehaviour.

(6) If the Governor considers that the question of removing a judge of the Supreme Court or the District Court from office for inability as aforesaid or for misbehaviour ought to be investigated, then-

  (a)  the Governor shall, by instrument under the Public Seal (which he may
       vary or revoke by another such instrument), appoint a tribunal, which
       shall consist of a Chairman and not less than two other members
       selected by the Governor from among judges who hold or have held
       office as judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in any part
       of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any
       such court;
  (b)  the tribunal shall enquire into the matter and report on the facts
       thereof to the Governor and recommend to the Governor whether he
       should request that the question of the removal of the judge should be
       referred by Us to the Judicial Committee; and
  (c)  if the tribunal so recommends, the Governor shall request that the
       question should be referred accordingly.

(7) If the question of removing a judge of the Supreme Court or the District Court from office has been referred to a tribunal appointed under paragraph

(6) of this Article, the Governor may suspend the judge from performing the functions of his office.

(8) Any such suspension may at any time be revoked by the Governor and shall in any case cease to have effect-

  (a)  if the tribunal recommends to the Governor that he should not request
       that the question of the removal from office of the judge should be
       referred by Us to the Judicial Committee; or
  (b)  if the Judicial Committee advises Us that the judge ought not to be
       removed from office. (Replaced on 3 May 1976) "retiring age"


ARTICLE XVII – Acting Governor[edit]

1) During any period when the office of Governor is vacant or the holder thereof is absent from the Colony or is for any other reason unable to perform the functions of his office, those functions shall, during Our pleasure, be assumed and performed by-

  (a)  such person as may be designated under Our Sign Manual and Signet or
       by instructions given by Us through one of Our Principal Secretaries
       of State; or
  (b)  if there is no person in the Colony so designated and able to perform
       those functions, the person lawfully discharging the functions of
       Chief Secretary. (Amended on 17 February 1977)

(2) Before assuming the functions of the office of Governor for the first time, any person as aforesaid shall make the oaths directed by Article III of these Our Letters to be made by the holder thereof.

(3) Any such person as aforesaid shall not continue to perform the functions of the office of Governor after the holder thereof, or some other person having a prior right to perform those functions, has notified him that he is about to resume, or assume, those functions.

(4) The holder of the office of Governor or any other person as aforesaid shall not, for the purposes of this Article, be regarded as absent from the Colony or as unable to perform the functions of that office at any time when there is a subsisting appointment of a Deputy under Article XVIIA of these Our Letters. (Replaced on 17 November 1967)


ARTICLE XVIIA – Deputy to Governor[edit]

(1) Whenever the Governor-

  (a)  has occasion to be absent from the Colony for a period which he has
       reason to believe will be of short duration; or
  (b)  is suffering from any illness which he has reason to believe will be
       of short duration; or
  (c)  considers for any reason that the public interest so requires, he may
       by instrument under the Public Seal appoint a person to be his Deputy
       and in that capacity to perform on his behalf such of the functions of
       the office of Governor as may be specified in such instrument.

(2) The powers and authority of the Governor shall not be abridged, altered or in any way affected by the appointment of a Deputy under this Article and a Deputy shall comply with all instructions which the Governor may address to him, but the question whether a Deputy has in any matter complied with such instructions shall not be enquired into by any court.

(3) Any appointment under this Article may be revoked at any time by Us by instructions given by Us through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State or by the Governor by instrument under the Public Seal, and subject thereto a person appointed under this Article shall hold that appointment for such period as may be specified in the instrument by which he is appointed. (Amended on 17 November 1967)


ARTICLE XVIII – Officers and others to obey and assist Governor[edit]

And We do hereby require and command all Our officers and ministers, civil and military, and all other the inhabitants of the Colony, to be obedient, aiding and assisting unto the Governor and to any person for the time being administering the Government of the Colony.


ARTICLE XIX – Term "the Governor" explained[edit]

In these Our Letters Patent the term "the Governor" shall include every person for the time being administering the Government of the Colony. "the Governor"


ARTICLE XX – Power reserved to His Majesty to revoke, alter, or amend present Letters Patent[edit]

And We do hereby reserve to Ourselves, Our heirs and successors, full power and authority, from time to time, to revoke, alter, or amend these Our Letters Patent as to Us or them shall seem meet.


ARTICLE XXI – Publication of Letters Patent[edit]

And We do further direct and enjoin that these Our Letters Patent shall be read and proclaimed at such place or places within the Colony as the Governor shall think fit, and shall come into operation on a day to be fixed by the Governor by Proclamation. (Note: Publication in accordance with Article XXI of the Letters Patent was effected by Proclamation No. 3 of 1917 in Hong Kong Government Gazette of 20 April 1917)


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  1. The letters patent of 1960 and 1982 and the first one of 1991 contain provisions upholding any act done before the amendments concerned and contrary to the amendments concerned, while all other post-1917 letters patent contain only amendments to the 1917 letters patent.