The districts were established in the early 1980s, when Hong Kong was under British rule.
However, Hong Kong police, fire department, hospital, and education do not follow these boundaries.
The population density per district varies from 783 (Islands) to 52,123 (Kwun Tong) per km2. Before the combination of Mong Kok and Yau Tsim districts in 1995, Mong Kok District had the highest density (~120,000 /km²).
The following figures come from the 2006 Population By-census. Note that the median monthly per capita income is deduced from the median monthly domestic household income, the average domestic household size and the labour force.
The Home Affairs Department
The Home Affairs Department is responsible for the District Administration Scheme, community building and community involvement activities, minor environmental improvement projects and minor local public works, and the licensing of hotels and guesthouses, bedspace apartments and clubs.
It promotes the concept of effective building management and works closely with other government departments to consistently improve the standard of building management in Hong Kong.
It monitors the provision of new arrival services and identifies measures to meet the needs of new arrivals.
It also disseminates information relating to and, where necessary, promotes the public's understanding of major government policies, strategies and development plans; and collects and assesses public opinion on relevant issues affecting the community.
These responsibilities are discharged primarily through the 18 district offices covering the whole of Hong Kong.
As head of each district office, the district officer is the representative of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government at the district level.
He has the responsibility of overseeing directly the operation of the District Administration Scheme in the district.
He is charged with implementing and coordinating the execution of district programmes, ensuring that the advice of the district council is properly followed up, and promoting residents' participation in district affairs.
In addition, he is required to maintain close liaison with different sectors of the community and reflect their concerns and problems to the Government.
It is his duty to ensure that district problems are resolved promptly through inter-departmental consultation and cooperation.
Also, he acts as a link between the district council and departments and serves as a mediator between them when problems arise. The district officer is also involved with the community at every level.
He has a role to mediate in the resolution of disputes between corporate bodies and residents. He performs an advisory and liaison role in providing assistance to building management bodies.
He operates a public enquiry service to enable the community to have easy access to services and information provided by government.
In emergency situations, the district officer is responsible for coordinating various departments’ efforts on the ground for ensuring the effective provision of relief services.
The role of district councils
District councils play an essential advisory role on district matters and issues affecting the whole of Hong Kong as appropriate.
The functions of a district council are:
to advise the Government on:
matters affecting the well-being of the people in the district;
the provision and use of public facilities and services within the district;
the adequacy and priorities of government programmes for the district; and
the use of public funds allocated to the district for local public works and community activities;
where funds are made available for the purpose, to undertake:
environmental improvements within the district;
the promotion of recreational and cultural activities within the district; and
community activities within the district.
The district councils also advise on the management of community halls, which should be in the best interest of the local residents.
The district councils initiate, organise and sponsor community involvement projects and activities aimed at enhancing community spirit and social cohesion and promoting the well-being of people in the districts.
These range from large-scale district festivals to the formation of local youth choirs and dance troupes.
They have also achieved notable success in improving the local environment by undertaking minor environmental improvement projects such as the provision of rest gardens, rain shelters and amenity planting.
In the 2003/04 financial year, $205.6 million has been allocated for the district councils.
Consultation with district councils
Departments send representatives to district council meetings, to consult them and, where appropriate, act on their advice and keep them informed of government policies and programmes in general and, more specifically, of the work of departments in the district and local matters that are likely to affect the livelihood, living environment or well-being of the residents within a district.
Composition of district councils
The second-term district councils, comprising 529 members (400 elected, 102 appointed by the Chief Executive and 27 ex officio who are chairmen of the rural committees in the New Territories), commenced on 1 January 2004.
District management committees
The district management committee in each district is chaired by the district officer. It is a government committee consisting of representatives of the core departments in the district, and provides a forum for departments to discuss and resolve district problems.
It responds positively to the advice and requests of the district council and submits a comprehensive written report on its work to each meeting of the district council.
To enhance communication between the district management committee and the district council, the district council chairman, vice chairman and chairmen of district council committees are invited to join district management committee as members.