Central government adviser on Hong Kong rejects civil nomination for 2017

Proposal to limit public to 'non-binding' recommendations for 2017 candidates is as flexible as Beijing will be, says state researcher

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 11:18am

Beijing may allow the Hong Kong public to make "non-binding" recommendations for candidates for the 2017 chief executive election. But that would be the biggest compromise it considers acceptable, a state researcher on the city's affairs has said.

The proposal was recently floated by University of Hong Kong Professor Albert Chen Hung-yee, a member of the Basic Law Committee, who suggested nominations would have to be vetted by a committee and decided on a one man, one vote basis.

But pan-democrats have criticised the idea as being undemocratic, saying such a small committee would work to advance Beijing's interests.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post , professor Dong Likun, a senior research fellow of the Institute of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, said: "I know [Albert] Chen well. His proposal is probably the biggest concession that the central government would consider accepting."

"There has been a lot of flexibility shown already ... There cannot be more [concessions]," said Dong. "There must be a nominating committee to vote [on the recommendations]. That is not negotiable," he said.

Dong said Chen's proposal should be used as the basis for further discussion.

"More discussion on this is beneficial to Hong Kong's well-being, as long as there is no compromise to the basic principle of the Basic Law - [that is] the right of nomination by the nominating committee," Dong said.

Chen's proposal has been viewed as an effort to seek a middle ground among differing factions in the electoral reform debate.

Pan-democrats have called for a public nomination - that anyone who can secure a certain number of nominations should be declared a candidate.

Earlier this month, Beijing's liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming rejected the idea of public nomination, saying it was against the Basic Law.

Dong also emphasised the need for the elected chief executive to be a "patriot" and "love the country" - another concept that is questioned by pan-democrats, who argue that this is not written in the Basic Law.

While accepting such "patriotism" is not explicitly required by the law, Dong argued it was "implied" in principle in the structure of election arrangements stated in the mini-constitution.

"A chief executive must be patriotic and must support the stance of the central government," Dong said.

"The bottom line ... is that he or she cannot be anti-central government."

Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, convenor of pan-democratic group Alliance for True Democracy, disagreed.

Cheng reiterated that the alliance's proposal - that "public nomination" should be obligatory - was in line with the Basic Law because the nominating committee should come from the public.

Cheng hoped that Beijing would be flexible.

"In 2010, although every Beijing loyalist said no to the creation of 'super-seats' in the Legislative Council, Beijing finally agreed," he said.

Political commentator Ivan Choy Chi-keung, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said there was no sign Beijing had already reached any conclusive decision on electoral reform.

He added that the central government had a "significant number" of political advisers like Dong, whose opinion should be regarded as personal.