Pan-democrats clash over proposed electoral reform compromise for 2017

'Heartbroken' Ronny Tong Ka-wah rejects suggestion he betrayed Hongkongers with 2017 plan that ignores public nomination

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 December, 2013, 5:09am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 December, 2013, 2:45pm

Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah sounded close to tears yesterday as he spoke of his heartbreak at being labelled "the betrayer of Hong Kong" by fellow pan-democrats after he put forward a controversial proposal for electoral reform.

Tong also hit back at his critics, saying they set unreasonably high demands in the battle for electoral reform by insisting on a three-track nomination system for chief executive candidates that includes a nominating committee as well as public and party nominations.

"Some onlookers might think pan-democrats have been bidding too high," Tong told Commercial Radio yesterday. "First they accept a proposal with a low nomination threshold. Then they call for public nomination. Now they say no part of the three-track system can be omitted.

"It is a bid [that is] too high that may make opponents doubt if they really have the sincerity to take part in talks."

In his own proposal for reform put forward in October, the barrister and lawmaker suggested widening the franchise of the nominating committee by including all elected district councillors and replacing corporate voting in some subsectors with individual votes. It did not include the idea of public nomination.

If the nominating committee was broadly representative - with two-thirds of its members directly elected by Hongkongers - it would avoid any threat of candidates being screened, he argued.

Yesterday, his voice was choked with emotion as he said: "I did not betray Hongkongers. It is especially heartbreaking to be blamed by pan-democrat allies."

Tong's remarks did not impress Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek - convenor of the Alliance for True Democracy.

"Given that two polls have shown that most people favour public nomination, the alliance only wants to clearly reflect Hongkongers' views," he said. "This is not a matter of making a high bid."

Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie had attempted to slam the door shut on the idea of public nomination, but yesterday Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, sounded a softer note from the government.

He said the government was open to a reform proposal put forward by Hong Kong University law professor Albert Chen Hung-yee which would keep the substantial nominating power of the committee.

Chen has suggested dividing the nominating process into two stages - an initial public recommendation of candidates, followed by an internal ballot by a nominating committee to draw up a shortlist.

"We have to look into the details," Tam said of the proposed two-stage process, "before making an overall judgment."