Pan-democrats hint at softer stance on 2017 to square with Basic Law

Committee could rubber-stamp public choices for chief executive candidates, alliance says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 5:54am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 5:54am

A group of pan-democratic lawmakers is pondering putting forward an electoral reform proposal that would hand the public the right to nominate candidates for chief executive while giving the nominating committee stipulated in the Basic Law a "nominal" final say.

If accepted, the idea could allow the Alliance for True Democracy to square its demand for public nomination with the government's insistence that proposals not in line with the Basic Law would be disregarded in its five-month public consultation.

At a forum hosted by think tank Wisdom Hong Kong, alliance convenor Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek indicated that the idea differed from its proposal in June, under which candidates backed by 70,000 voters would be allowed to run automatically.

"Based on respect for the nominating committee's authority and power, we can accept that the nominating committee could endorse the candidates nominated by the public," Cheng said. "We hope this could satisfy concerns about the nominating committee being bypassed."

The alliance is made up of 26 of the 27 pan-democratic lawmakers.

Cheng described the proposal as a "three-track system", as it would give the public, political parties and the committee itself the chance to put forward hopefuls, which the committee would be expected to rubber-stamp.

Attending the forum with Cheng, constitutional affairs minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said it had been good to see politicians from across the spectrum incorporating different ideas in their proposals for reform.

Tam was part of a three-member group of government officials who launched the consultation on reform last week, ahead of the 2017 chief executive election, due to be run under universal suffrage for the first time.

Cheng said the alliance would discuss various ideas before coming up with a final proposal next month.

Pro-democracy group People Power tabled its proposal to the alliance yesterday, in which it argued that all lawmakers should be directly elected from 2016.

The group suggested that the nominating committee should be made up of all 70 lawmakers and the 412 directly elected district councillors, and that a candidate should be allowed to go forward with the support of either 5 per cent of lawmakers or 5 per cent of councillors. That would mean four lawmakers would be enough to secure nomination. The group also demanded public nomination.

However, Beijing-loyalist heavyweight Elsie Leung Oi-sie yesterday spoke out against "big changes" in the coming reforms.

"If the change is too big, and if we try everything at the same time … you may remember in 1998, when we moved to our new airport - the location, the computer system and the cargo system are all changed - those two weeks were so chaotic!" said Leung, vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee.

But former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, who apologised for the problems at Chek Lap Kok at the time, said it was "wrong" to compare an infrastructure project and a poll.

The government is expected to table a proposal for reform next year. As well as securing approval from Beijing, the proposal needs a two-thirds majority in the Legislative Council, meaning it must have the support of at least some pan-democrats.