Popular nomination for chief executive still a possibility

Carrie Lam appears to leave the door open for public to put forward candidates for chief executive, despite comments by Beijing official

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 November, 2013, 4:54am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 November, 2013, 5:03pm

The proposal to let the public nominate chief executive candidates still appears to be a possibility after Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday the looming consultation on electoral reform would focus on legal issues.

This is despite Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei reiterating on Saturday that the right to choose candidates remained with the nominating committee, ignoring a demand by pan-democrats for public nominations for the poll in 2017.

"We will elaborate on these legal clauses in the first round of consultation," said Lam, referring to the Beijing official's discussion on the mini-constitution as he finished a three-day visit to the city. "It is too early to get into specific proposals or to judge whether certain plans would comply with the Basic Law."

During his visit Li also said there would be a limit on the number of candidates allowed to run.

But Lam gave an assurance that the consultation, due to start next month, would be conducted "with the greatest tolerance".

"I personally hope public views can be heeded with an open attitude and the greatest tolerance," said the administration's number two official, who will lead the exercise with Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and constitutional minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen.

"I hope society won't be antagonised by just one of the many issues at such an early stage of the consultation."

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying did not attend the key luncheon and seminar where Li gave his take on the mini-constitution, but he said: "I had a two-hour exchange with Li upon his arrival.

"It is one of the important tasks of my tenure as chief executive to have a big input as the reform work unfolds," said Leung after holding a consultation forum on the upcoming policy address and budget.

When asked for his views about Li's remarks that the future chief executive had to "love the country and Hong Kong", he said: "It is perfectly justified for the chief executive and all public officers to have to love both the country and the city.

"But the weaker national sense of some in society is understandable - Hong Kong has a colonial history that spanned across over a century."

There were protests and shouting matches both inside and outside the forum venue in Sha Tin yesterday.

The radical League of Social Democrats and student group Scholarism managed to secure tickets - the 250 tickets were handed out within 15 minutes - but most of the 15 questions came from pro-government district councillors.

Four protesters, including League lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, were expelled from the forum after disrupting Leung's speech and those by three other ministers - environment minister Wong Kam-sing, transport and housing minister Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, and financial services and the treasury minister Chan Ka-keung.

Outside, a 16-year-old Scholarism member was hit by a police barricade and needed medical treatment. Hundreds of anti-Leung protesters from People Power gathered and were largely peaceful, but some complained of an overwhelming police presence. Police said some disregarded their instruction by attempting to break away from the barricades. A photojournalist from Ta Kung Pao fell to the ground during the clashes.

Another 20 people showed up to support Leung.