New online platform to rival government consultation on electoral reform

Hongkongers can use website to propose and discuss ideas for roll-out of universal suffrage, rivalling government's own consultation process

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 5:21am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 5:21am

Hongkongers are to get an online platform to air their views on issues surrounding the introduction of universal suffrage by early next month.

The website will offer an alternative method for gauging local opinion to the government's formal public consultation, the University of Hong Kong legal scholar behind the project said.

"We will see where, broadly speaking, public opinion falls - and we may be surprised," Professor Simon Young Ngai-man, an expert on political reform at the university's faculty of law, said yesterday.

The project, Design Democracy Hong Kong, will delve into the details of conducting the 2017 chief executive election, due to be the first time the city elects its leader by universal suffrage.

It will start tomorrow with a designated 100 participants comprising lawmakers and scholars, followed by open access on December 3. The launch comes ahead of an official consultation that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying says will begin by the end of the year.

Young plans to cover six aspects of the election, including who should have the power to nominate; the size, composition and electorate base of the nominating committee; the mechanics of the nomination process; and the method of election.

A "broadly representative" nominating committee is required under the Basic Law in the process of electing a chief executive by universal suffrage.

In recent months, discussion has centred on the possibility of allowing public nomination and the question of whether candidates need to be patriotic. Young said the platform would seek to address other technicalities that were rarely mentioned.

Examples include whether a minimum voter turnout should be required and whether a run-off poll is needed if no candidate gets a certain share of the vote.

Young's plan follows in the footsteps of his faculty colleagues. Law dean Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun has formed a think tank, Hong Kong 2020, with former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang. Professor Albert Chen Hung-yee sits on the Basic Law Committee, a central government organ.

And in the most contentious move, associate professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting has initiated the Occupy Central movement, which may resort to civil disobedience in pursuit of true democracy.

Young will allow opinions to be publicly viewable. People can vote on ideas and the most popular suggested voting models will be featured in profiles.

The aim is to inject a transparency lacking in the government's consultation process, where "there's very little debate".

"They do these sort-of forums - who ever goes to them? These days the discussions occur online," Young said.

"The way the government consultation works - people submit their opinions, [the government] disappears for several months, then comes back again on the website … There's no analysis. You have to depend on [the government's] analysis."

Chinese University scholar Ma Ngok, who will test the platform, said the online model might not be perfect either.