Basic Law committee member calls for inclusive field of candidates

Professor says public must be offered a genuine choice in election of city's next chief executive

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 3:53am

A Beijing-appointed legal scholar who advises on the Basic Law has renewed his call for pan-democrats to be allowed to run in the chief executive election in 2017.

Albert Chen Hung-yee warned it could cause unimaginable harm to Hong Kong if the city fails to achieve universal suffrage through negotiation.

The warning from the Hong Kong University law professor and Basic Law Committee member came a day after a committee colleague, Maria Tam Wai-chu, said his proposal to let the public recommend candidates to a nominating committee was impractical.

Chen's proposal was regarded by observers as an effort to seek middle ground, after Beijing's liaison office director, Zhang Xiaoming , shot down the pan-democrats' idea of public nomination, in which people who win a sufficient number of nominations from the public would automatically win the committee's endorsement as candidates. Critics said the idea contravened officials' view of the Basic Law, according to which the nominating committee should have a "substantial" role.

Speaking on a DBC radio show yesterday, Chen said he tabled his proposal as he hoped it would alleviate worries among pan-democrats that their candidates would simply be screened out by the nominating committee - and might help open up some middle ground in the debate over public nomination.

"If you set such a high threshold that voters don't have a choice, universal suffrage cannot be achieved, because the pan-democratic camp will veto [such a proposal]," he said. "Every Hongkonger - especially politicians from [across the spectrum] who are concerned about the city's future - should have a crisis mentality. They should understand that if we cannot reach consensus on universal suffrage … damage to Hong Kong's future will be unimaginable."

He also said the nominating committee should adopt a "one man, one vote" system when deciding on which recommended candidates would become formal candidates.

But Chen received only a lukewarm response yesterday from Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit.

Speaking on TVB's On The Record programme, Leong said: "The nominating committee must accept the voters' nomination, because the Basic Law says the nominating committee shall nominate [candidates] in accordance with democratic procedures. What could be more democratic than being nominated by 3 to 4 per cent of the voters in Hong Kong?"