Academic's reform plan receives muted response

HKU law dean proposes 160-member committee with 18 directly elected representatives

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 5:05am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 5:05am

Leaders from across the political spectrum have expressed reservations about a top legal scholar's revised proposal for electoral reform, a day after the plan was unveiled.

On Saturday, Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, dean of the University of Hong Kong's law faculty, proposed forming a 160-member nominating committee that would include 18 directly elected representatives from each of the city's 18 districts.

And any person who secures 20 votes - or 12.5 per cent of the committee - can formally join the race, Chan proposed. In October, Chan suggested including 18 district councillors in the committee, rather than returning representatives specifically to nominate chief executive candidates.

Chan hoped that his new plan could help to resolve the political stalemate. Pan-democrats have insisted that the public be allowed to nominate candidates, while pro-Beijing figures are equally adamant that public nomination would go against the Basic Law, which states that a "broadly representative" committee shall have nominating power.

However, Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, feared that Chan's proposal could be "too different" from the current 1,193-strong Election Committee.

"The National People's Congress decided [in 2007] that the nominating committee shall be modelled on the election committee," Tam said. "We already have directly elected lawmakers in the [election] committee, [so] why elect another 18 representatives [separately]?"

Civic Party chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee also questioned the practicality of Chan's idea.

"When these people run for the committee, they don't know who will be running for the top job … how can they make promises about who they would nominate?" Eu asked.

A smaller committee could increase the risk that the election would be "manipulated" by the pro-Beijing camp, she said.

Under Chan's proposal, the committee will also consist of all 70 legislators, all 36 National People's Congress deputies, as well as 31 Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference members, a religious leader, a student representative and three members of the civil service.

Speaking in a televised forum hosted by RTHK, Eu called for Hongkongers to stand firm on public nomination. Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu countered that Hongkongers should "give up" on the idea. Public support made it harder for the pan-democrats to budge on the issue, she said, adding that it was impossible for her to endorse the idea "as it looks like an amoeba that changes shape every minute" as different people propose it.

About 110 residents were picked by HKU's public opinion programme to attend the forum as a focus group which reflects the city's demographics, and 70 per cent voted in support of public nomination after the event.