My Take

It's time to drop Hong Kong's political reform sideshows

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 5:05am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 5:05am

The more uncompromising pan-democrats have made public nomination their be-all-and-end-all. Mainland authorities have insisted publicly any chief executive must be a "patriot". Both positions make any meaningful negotiation or compromise impossible. Hong Kong's interests are ill-served by the intransigence on both sides.

For that reason alone, we should welcome Anson Chan Fang On-sang's alternative proposal. The former chief secretary has the prestige to lead the pan-democrats back on a more sensible and pragmatic path. The movement now led by children, students and hotheads is going nowhere and is taking Hong Kong down with them. As a starting point, Chan wisely pulls away from public nomination, which we already know will not fly with Beijing and will never get the votes needed to pass in the legislature. Reasonable people on both sides of the political divide have always said we should focus on the composition of the nominating committee, and this the Anson Chan proposal does.

Her idea is to create a 1,400-strong nominating committee with 317 members directly elected by all three million voters. Anyone who has secured nomination from a tenth of committee members could run as a candidate. The current 1,200-member election committee consists of four sectors with 300 members each. Under Chan's proposal, three sectors would retain 300 members each, but the fourth - which she calls the political sector - would have 500 members, 317 of whom would be directly elected.

There is nothing undemocratic about a nominating committee. The trick is to make it "broadly representative". This is what the pan-dems will legitimately fight for. Beijing and its local allies will want to make sure any candidate nominated will be a "patriot". They can achieve this by forcing "patriotic screening", which risks making the whole process illegitimate. Or they can construct a nominating committee which will likely - though you will never have certainty unless you are North Korea - produce Beijing loyalists as candidates.

For both sides, the real fight should be over how the committee is composed. So let's drop the sideshows about public nomination and patriotism.