A pro-Beijing lawmaker has said it's unrealistic to expect the functional constituencies would be abolished by 2020, when universal suffrage is expected to be in place for electing lawmakers.
Ip Kwok-him, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, outlined an alternative model for the Legislative Council election, one that kept the trade-based seats but also allowed for increased democracy.
Ip suggested grouping the existing 35 functional constituencies into several bigger ones. The city's 3.2 million eligible voters would choose to cast their ballots in any one of the new groups.
For instance, the legal sector, the accounting sector and other relevant sectors could be merged into a new professional sector, which could have five or six seats. The candidates would come from the relevant sectors, and be elected through a proportional representation system, he said.
"Corporate votes would cease to exist and all voters could have two ballots of equal value. I think it fulfils the definition of universal suffrage," he said, adding it was only a preliminary notion and not endorsed by his party.
The central government has approved in principle electing Legco members through universal suffrage after the system is adopted for choosing the chief executive in 2017.
The government has yet to announce consultation about electoral reform, but it was widely expected to touch on the methods for implementing universal suffrage in the chief executive poll in 2017 and the rules on the Legco election in 2016.
Ip said he could not see drastic changes to the existing functional constituencies in the 2016 poll, except through broadening the electoral base. But the boundaries of the existing five geographical constituencies could be redrawn, he said. "The government should seriously think about redrawing the boundaries, according to changes in the population," he said. "There could be one more constituency in the New Territories, and even one more on Hong Kong Island."
Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said Ip's proposal on universal suffrage for the Legco election might offer equal rights for voters, but not for the rights to nominate or be nominated. "It will unlikely be widely accepted by the public," he said.