Oh dear, let the tedium start. The public consultation on electoral reform has finally started. There will be lots of self-righteous and indignant claims and counter-claims over the next five months. But beyond that, Hong Kong really only has two broad choices.
(1) You can insist on public nomination as advocated by many, but not all, pan-democrats. This means anyone can nominate anyone, but any nominee for the chief executive post can only run if they get a specific number of supporters from the public. A majority of Hong Kong people support it, if a recent University of Hong Kong survey is right.
(2) Or you can accept the necessity for a nominating committee - and debate who should sit in it - to pick the candidates. This is clearly spelled out in Article 45 of the Basic Law.
Most people who read the Basic Law without preconceptions would think 1 and 2 are not compatible. Logic and common sense say if you have public nomination, there is simply no need or place for a nominating committee. On this specific point, the Hong Kong and central governments are right: 1 is unconstitutional under the Basic Law. Some pan-dems like Occupy Central's Benny Tai Yiu-ting insist 1 and 2 are compatible. Tai phoned Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung during a radio interview yesterday to say he is writing a paper to prove he has squared the circle. Well, lawyers argue for any position they happen to advocate. Tai's HKU colleague and former law dean Albert Chen Hung-yee and Ronny Tong Ka-wah, the Civic Party lawmaker, rather think not, and they are right.
The main reason some pan-dems argue for the compatibility of 1 and 2 is because they want to maintain the fiction that they are working within the constitutional framework of the Basic Law. But, if they are honest, they should just say: screw the nominating committee. In that case, they can either demand the government request the standing committee of the National People's Congress to amend the article. They can also protest indefinitely or seek the overthrow of the existing political order. None of these routes will get anywhere. But maintaining a fiction is no way to fight a battle.
Why would Beijing give in when they are right in principle and have the power to impose that right?