Leung Chun Ying

Rivals agree on new rule for live debate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2012, 12:00am

The city is gearing up for the first aggressive debate among the three candidates for chief executive, who have agreed to revised rules that allow them to answer questions directed at an opponent.

Albert Ho Chun-yan, Henry Tang Ying-yen and Leung Chun-ying will meet in a two-hour live televised debate focusing on governance, the economy and politics at RTHK's Broadcasting House in Kowloon Tong on Friday at 8pm.

The trio's representatives signed an amendment to the debate rules yesterday confirming the final arrangements for 'crossfire' sessions in which each contender would get eight minutes to direct questions at a rival of his choice.

If the third candidate wants to intervene and reply to a particular question, he must raise his hand. The candidate who posed the question will decide whether to allow the intervening party to speak.

Three crossfire sessions will take place during the two-hour debate.

Democratic Party vice-chairman Sin Chung-kai, who signed the deal on behalf of Ho, called the amendment 'improved and acceptable'.

'It strikes a balance between free intervention and no intervention at all,' he said.

The debate was left in doubt last week after the hosts, representing 11 electronic media outlets, rewrote the rules suddenly to bar a third person from intervening because of technical issues. The hosts cited overlapping voices and timing as potential problems.

Leung agreed to that change, but representatives of Tang and Ho said their candidates would reconsider their attendance if the organisers insisted on it.

Asked whether the crossfire sessions would be unfair to Ho if the other two candidates - who have been dominating the race - use the time to target each other, Sin said: 'I'm sure Ho will come into play during his own crossfire session.'

Ronald Chiu Ying-chun, spokesman for the preparatory committee, said the trio should be gentlemanly enough to treat one another fairly.

'I watched the US Republican primary debate in Florida and found no overlapping of voices, even with the presence of four candidates,' he said.

Broadcast journalists and some of the 150 invited members of the public will be given time to ask the candidates questions.

Chiu said although the debate would focus on the three designated topics, journalists and other members of the audience were free to raise any other issues, including scandals surrounding Tang and Leung.

The organisers said neither the candidates nor their campaign offices would know beforehand what questions would be posed to them.