Legal scholar's 2017 plan gives Legco members a voice

Legal scholar suggests a significantly smaller committee with 160 members- including all 70 lawmakers - could nominate candidates

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 October, 2013, 12:40am

A top legal scholar may have broken new ground in the dispute over how the city's chief executive should be elected in 2017.

He has proposed a 160-member nominating committee be formed, replacing the 1,193-strong election committee, to appoint candidates for the race.

Any hopeful would become a formal candidate by securing 20 nominations from the committee, said Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, dean of the University of Hong Kong's law faculty.

For previous polls, the election committee has both nominated candidates and then voted on a winner. Last year, the committee had 1,193 members.

With a "one man, one vote" system expected in 2017, an election committee will no longer exist. Debate has focused on the formation and mechanism of a nominating committee.

"More members doesn't necessarily imply the committee would automatically become more representative," said Chan. "Both the legislative and election committee members from certain sectors are elected by the same groups of voters anyway."

He was referring to the four divisions of the election committee, which represented the commercial, professional, social and political sectors.

"The voter bases of the first three divisions … are exactly the same as those of the Legislative Council's functional constituencies," Chan (pictured) said. "I propose that the members of these divisions be substituted by the current 35 functional-constituency lawmakers."

Chan was confident his idea was in line with the Basic Law.

Under the proposal, all 70 legislators, including the directly elected lawmakers, form part of the nominating body. It will also include all 36 National People's Congress deputies, as well as 31 Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference members, 18 elected district councillors, a religious leader, a student representative and three members of the civil service.

"Almost half of the committee members are from Legco, so this will not only improve the legislative-executive relationship, but also pave the way for party politics."

Anyone who secures 20 votes - or 12.5 per cent of the committee - can formally join the race. The nominating threshold will remain the same.

Chan put a cap on nominations - no hopeful can get the support of more than 64 members, or 40 per cent of the committee.

Chan said support for the idea of public nomination stemmed from public distrust of how the nominating body would work, but advised against endless debate on the topic.

"Like it or not, we have to have a nominating committee according to the Basic Law," he said.

"Under my proposal, the committee is broadly representative, and almost half of it is selected by election," he said. "It can address the concerns of both Beijing and pan-democrats."

Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah welcomed Chan's proposal, saying public nomination had been "shot down" by Beijing.

"Reforming the committee is the right way to go," said Tong.

But pro-Beijing lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung had his doubts.

"The decision made by Beijing in 2007 stated the nominating committee should be based on the framework of the election committee, yet the number of members has decreased greatly under Chan's proposal," he said.