Widening selection

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 September, 1996, 12:00am

There is no lack of candidates for the Selection Committee: when the list closes today, there will be more than a dozen disappointed applicants for each successful one. This by no means indicates people are satisfied with the system imposed on them.

What it does suggest is that, if the territory is not to have a full democratic election for its future chief executive, then concerned people are still at pains to have some say in who will head the new Special Administrative Region. Equally, a substantial number of people want to be able to try to influence the choice of those who will replace the elected legislative councillors of 1995 next July.

The element of choice in these matters, and the number who do the choosing, may be strictly limited, but at least choice exists as of today. Some choice is better than none at all, and offers an opportunity to those who will decide which of the applicants go on to join the Selection Committee.

With so many applicants, the aim should be to produce a committee with a balance of people representing many sectors of society, and as many shades of opinion, experience, age and calling as possible. The wider the spectrum of membership on the Selection Committee, the higher its chances of credibility.

The next step should be for as many as possible of those who wish to stand for the post of chief executive to declare themselves quickly, and begin campaigning.

They may not do so in the same way as a politician in a democratic campaign like that of last autumn, but they can present their credentials to the public and take all the opportunities that arise to state their reasons for standing - as well as their fitness to assume such a burdensome office.

One reason advanced for the reluctance of candidates to come forward is that there was little point in doing so before the Selection Committee was convened. But its formation is now weeks away and there is no further reason for delay.

It is the people of Hong Kong whom the chief executive will serve, and the sooner the list of contenders is known, the better the public will be able to judge their merits. The greater the choice debated, the better. If the committee is wise, it will heed public opinion, and seek to ensure the process is as open as possible. Every step in this direction would not only be right, but could also help to strengthen the position of the chief executive by softening the distrust felt by many about the whole process.