Everything on the table for Hong Kong's political reform talks

Public consultation on voting will begin by early next year and include suggestions that have arisen during months of discussion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 8:27am

The government will put a wide range of ideas proposed by various quarters on the table to start its long-awaited first round of public consultation on methods of universal suffrage, a source familiar with the matter says.

There will be no concrete proposal, but suggestions including popular nomination will be listed in the exercise, which is to be held early next year.

It is important for the government to stay open-minded at an early stage. It is also inappropriate for us to pass premature judgment about whether any ideas violate the Basic Law

It will mark the official start to political reform that aims to set out the rules for a more democratic Legislative Council in 2016, followed by the first one-man-one-vote chief executive election in 2017.

The consultation will touch on "all elements" related to both elections, the source says.

The government will outline only several core principles under the Basic Law, he says.

It will refrain from offering a detailed plan until the second phase, which might come by the middle of next year.

"It is important for the government to stay open-minded at an early stage," the source said. "It is also inappropriate for us to pass premature judgment about whether any ideas violate the Basic Law."

The suggestions will serve to "illustrate" electoral concepts, despite criticism they may not be in line with the Basic Law.

In recent months, political parties and other groups have presented various ideas, such as popular nomination, which accords all voters equal rights to nominate chief executive candidates.

The student-led Scholarism prepared a charter stating pan-democratic parties should list such a nomination system as a priority. Three mainstream pan-democratic parties, including the Democrats, refused to sign it.

Discussion for the chief executive poll is expected to touch on the formation of the nominating committee, nominating procedures and the maximum number of candidates allowed.

Whether the city will pick a winner by a simple or absolute majority, by an instant run-off or multiple run-offs, will be open to public debate.

The consultation will also seek views on a re-run should Beijing refuse to recognise the winner.

For the Legco poll, discussion will focus on functional constituency seats, which now make up half of the 70 seats.

Proposals include increasing the number of "super-seats" - a district council constituency returned by voters citywide - and broadening the electoral base of certain trade-based seats.

Yesterday, Beijing-loyalist parties voiced opposition to the idea to cut the number of trade-based seats, while pan-democrats said functional constituencies should be abolished.

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan defended its decision not to endorse the charter prepared by Scholarism.

"Allowing tens of thousands of voters to nominate reveals their personal political stances", which ran counter to the spirit of a secret ballot in which people could cast their votes without fear of any consequences, Wong said.