Justice chief wants both sides heard
People may say they want public nomination, but if you tell them it could be illegal, then the reaction will be different, warns Rimsky Yuen
The justice secretary said he presented his argument against giving the public the right to take part in the nomination process for chief executive candidates in order to ensure a rational discussion on the issue - but it was not necessarily the government's final position on the matter.
Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said the government was happy to consider "good counter-arguments" on the issue.
With pan-democrats putting forward so-called public nomination as part of their proposals for electoral reform, Yuen said: "It's only fair and appropriate that perhaps another view can be given, so that the public can also have a balanced and informed consideration in the course of the discussion.
"The point is to provide fruitful discussions, in the same way as other people have done, by way of providing articles to the media," he said in an interview with the South China Morning Post last week - on the same day the Post and other newspapers published his article stating that the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution, made it clear that only a nominating committee had the power to pick candidates.
It was the strongest stance on the issue by a top government official since a five-month public consultation process on electoral reform was launched at the start of December.
"We are not saying this is the final position on anything," he told the Post. "Definitely if there are good arguments … by other people, who say I do not agree with you, Rimsky Yuen, here are my reasons, definitely we are happy to consider," he said.
Asked if the submissions made during the consultation process so far generally supported public nomination, Yuen responded: "If you simply ask people, do you want public nomination, people will simply say yes. But if you tell them, 'What about if it is illegal?' then the reaction will be different. Hence we need to have a detailed consideration."
There have been calls to include the elected district councillors on the nominating committee as a form of public representation. While Yuen agreed they did have a legitimate mandate, he had heard arguments that some voters would not have expected their district councillor to have the power to choose chief executive candidates when they gave them their vote.
"Is it really what you want to do to a district councillor? Or do you want to confer or confine his role to that of district councillor? What is the proper role of a district councillor?" he asked.
Yuen said he would not exclude the possibility of the government commissioning a survey to gauge public views on the electoral reform proposal to be put forward at the end of the year - as happened for electoral reform proposals in 2005.
"But I'm not saying we're going to do it necessarily, the reason being that the time now and the situation [in 2005] is not exactly the same," he added.