Loyalist suggests screening to stop sex symbols running for Hong Kong top job
Exco member's argument for screening in chief executive poll derided as insult to Hongkongers
Stuart Lau and Johnny Tam
A key Beijing loyalist has suggested that screening is needed for chief executive elections to stop candidates such as sex symbols from running for office.
Cheng Yiu-tong, the honorary president of the Federation of Trade Unions and an Executive Council member, was commenting on last week's remarks by Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong. Zhang, in a historic visit to the Legislative Council last Wednesday, praised the use of a sieve - a metaphor to mean a screening process for an election - to "sift fine grains from coarse grains".
In response to this yesterday, Cheng said: "[The] sieve is like gold prospecting; the good stuff is sorted out after sifting and sifting. This is very important.
"If we have no such practices, so-called Western universal suffrage has seen even sex symbols elected. Is this something we would like to see here?" Cheng said a screening system should be the way to select who will run for the top job - like last year's election in which a minimum of 150 nominations were needed from a committee of 1,200 that chose Leung Chun-ying and losing candidates Henry Tang Ying-yen and Albert Ho Chun-yan.
Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an organiser of the Occupy Central movement pressing for full democracy in 2017, said Cheng's remarks were an insult to Hongkongers. "Everyone has the right to be elected," Tai said. "If you restrict someone from being elected just because of their previous jobs or remarks, it's unacceptable." He added that Hongkongers had the intelligence to choose the right candidate to be the next leader.
Cheng's comments were also roundly mocked online. Many internet users asked how Diana Pang Dan, a Hong Kong-based actress, could have been selected as a delegate to the Gansu Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference this year. Pang is known for her semi-nude film and television appearances.
In response to Cheng's remarks, Pang said: "Everyone is equal in an election … It would be unfair to deprive anyone of their right to stand in an election because of their [occupation]."
Meanwhile, outspoken celebrity Chapman To Man-chat posted a picture of Cheng to his Facebook page with the message: "What's wrong with a 'sex symbol'? It's still better than you."
Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said the question was not if there will be screening in the 2017 poll, but whether such screening is fair. Referring to student group Scholarism's proposal that a candidate should be able to run for office with 100,000 signatures, he asked: "If I get 90,000 signatures but I'm still barred, isn't that screening?"