Harman Patil (Editor)

Governor of Hong Kong

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His/Her Excellency

First holder
Sir Henry Pottinger

26 June 1843

Final holder
Chris Patten

Governor of Hong Kong

Government House, Hong Kong

Monarch of the United Kingdom

The Governor of Hong Kong was the representative in Hong Kong of the British Crown from 1843 to 1997. In this capacity, the governor was president of the Executive Council and Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces Overseas Hong Kong. The governor's roles were defined in the Hong Kong Letters Patent and Royal Instructions. Upon the end of British rule and the transfer of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China in 1997, most of the civil functions of this office went to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, and military functions went to the Commander of the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison.


The governor

Authorities and duties of the governor were defined in the Hong Kong Letters Patent and Royal Instructions in 1843. The governor, appointed by the British monarch (on the advice of the Foreign Secretary), exercise the executive branch of Hong Kong Government throughout British sovereignty and, with the exception of a brief experiment after World War II, no serious attempt was made to introduce representative government, until the final years of British rule.

The Governor of Hong Kong chaired the colonial cabinet, the Executive Council (ExCo), and until 1993, also the President of Legislative Council. The governor appointed most, if not all, of the members of the colony's legislature (known colloquially as LegCo), which was largely an advisory body until the first indirect elections of LegCo was held in 1985. Initially both Councils were dominated by British expatriates, but this progressively gave way to local Hong Kong Chinese appointees in later years. Historically, the Governors of Hong Kong were professional diplomats except the last governor, Chris Patten, who was a career politician. In December 1996, the governor's salary was HK$3,036,000 per annum, tax-free. It was fixed at 125% of the Chief Secretary's salary.

In the absence of the governor, the chief secretary immediately became the acting governor of the colony. The chief secretaries were historically drawn from the Colonial Office or British military. One Royal Navy Vice Admiral served as administrator after World War II. Four Japanese military officers (three Army officers and one naval Vice Admiral) served as administrators during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in World War II.


The Governor of Hong Kong used a Daimler DS420 for day to day transport and a Rolls-Royce Phantom V landaulette for ceremonial occasions. Both vehicles were removed by the Royal Navy immediately following the handover to China on 1 July 1997.


  • The first governor, Sir Henry Pottinger, 1st Bt., resided in the Former French Mission Building from 1843 to 1846. It was used as the home of the Provisional Government after Japanese surrender from 1945 to 1946. The building now houses the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. His successor, Sir John Davis, 1st Bt., also lived there before moving to Caine Road.
  • Since the 4th governor, Sir John Bowring, the governors resided at Government House, excluding the period from 1941 to 1946.
  • From 1941 to 1945 the Commandant of Japanese Forces as Military Governor of Hong Kong occupied Flagstaff House as their residence. The residence was returned to the Commander of British Forces following the end of World War II.
  • Firsts

  • Charles Elliot, first administrator
  • Sir Henry Pottinger, first governor and first Irishman to serve in the rĂ´le
  • Sir John Francis Davis, first Sinologist to serve as governor
  • Sir John Bowring, first Puritan to serve as governor
  • Sir John Pope Hennessy, first Irish Catholic to serve as governor
  • Sir Matthew Nathan, first Jew to serve as governor
  • Sir Francis H. May, first police chief to serve as governor and first governor being to suffer an assassination attempt (which failed)
  • Sir Cecil Clementi, first Indian-born and Cantonese-speaking governor
  • Sir Mark Young, first prisoner of war to serve as governor
  • Takashi Sakai, first Japanese administrator to serve as governor
  • Cecil Harcourt, first British military administrator to serve as governor (all past governors with military service had retired before assuming the post)
  • Sir Murray MacLehose, first non-colonial officer to serve as governor; he was a diplomat, a foreign service officer
  • Sir Edward Youde, first governor fluent in Mandarin; only governor to die in office
  • Chris Patten, first politician to serve as governor; only governor not to don the formal dress as governor; only governor never to have held any title of nobility or knighthood during his tenure, the last Governor of Hong Kong under British rule before 1 July 1997
  • References

    Governor of Hong Kong Wikipedia

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