The Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities elected the University of Hong Kong's Dean of Arts, Professor Kam Louie, as its first President during its inaugural meeting held on April 18, 2011. Professor David Parker from the Chinese University of Hong Kong was elected Secretary, Professor Longxi Zhang from City University of Hong Kong Vice-President, and Professor Clara Ho from Hong Kong Baptist University Treasurer. Six other Fellows were elected to form the Academy's Executive Committee.

Distinguished humanities scholars including Professors Kam Louie, David Parker, Longxi Zhang and Leo Lee started working toward the establishment of a humanities academy in 2007. After years of planning, and with the support of Arts and Social Sciences Deans from Hong Kong's eight publicly funded institutions of higher education, as well as the Open University, the Academy was formally established in March 2011. A total of thirty-nine Foundation Fellows have been elected, representing the humanities disciplines such as philosophy, literature, languages, linguistics, music, fine arts, Chinese, English, gender and cultural studies, and translation. The main criteria for election to the Fellowship were excellence in research, service to humanities scholarship and residence status in Hong Kong.

In an interview, Professor Louie remarked that, 'the purpose of the new Academy is to draw together for the first time Hong Kong's leading humanities scholars from all its institutions of higher education to form a strong united voice on behalf of the humanities. The humanities, which play such a vital role in enriching Hong Kong life, need to be better explained and promoted ' to government, business and the community and who better to do this than the territory's most distinguished humanities scholars?'

Ten of the thirty-nine Foundation Fellows are from the University of Hong Kong (HKU), eight from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), six from Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), five from Lingnan University (LU), four from City University of Hong Kong (CityU), three from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), and one each from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK) and Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd).