Allowing the public to put forward names for the 2017 chief executive race will still be in line with the Basic Law - provided that a nominating panel gets to further narrow the pool, a local expert on the mini-constitution says.
Basic Law Institute chairman Alan Hoo said this mechanism would not compromise the current - and legal - function of the nominating committee in "nominating chief executive candidates" in accordance with "democratic procedures".
The arrangement of civil nomination - as it has been termed - was first raised by pro-democracy advocates, followed by the endorsement of another pro-Beijing heavyweight, University of Hong Kong professor Albert Chen Hung-yee, a member of the Basic Law Committee under the National People's Congress Standing Committee.
But Zhang Xiaoming, head of the central government's liaison office, recently wrote in an open letter to Civic Party leader Leong Kah-kit that civil nomination "neglected the requirements stated in the Basic Law", insisting that the committee was solely responsible for the nomination of candidates.
Hoo nonetheless said he believed his proposal was in line with Zhang's view, arguing that the nominating committee's duty did not extend to selecting "who wanted to vie for chief executive candidacy".
"Therefore, on the one hand, the nominating committee members can continue nominating intended runners, while on the other hand, the public can also become nominators," Hoo, who is a barrister, said.
And this would be followed by a second round of voting according to his proposal. The nominating committee would decide who between the two separate tracks of contenders could finally become candidates, to be finally elected by the public.
This means the government consultation on the electoral arrangement, expected to start next year, will have to address the maximum number of candidates allowed in a single race.
Hoo argued that there would be a need for a cap.
"We cannot have an infinite number of candidates. There must be a cap," he said.
The pre-handover documents from the Sino-British negotiations on the drafting of the Basic Law carried the "legislative intent", he said and added that he hoped to meet Qiao Xiaoyang , National People's Congress Law Committee chairman, to ask for the release of the documents.
But Hoo disagreed with Chen's proposal to state clearly Beijing's ability to veto a chief executive winner, saying a final rejection would spur a constitutional crisis.
He would ask Qiao to meet some pan-democrats, especially those from the Civic Party, to discuss constitutional reforms.