Anson Chan's reform proposal shifts debate away from public nomination

Some glad there's less focus on question of public nomination for 2017 poll

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 5:26am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang's political reform proposal has helped shift debate on the 2017 chief executive election back to a track the government and moderate pan-democrats are more comfortable with.

Some pan-democrats say her proposal on how to elect the city's leader by "one man, one vote" could broaden public discussions during the consultation on reform, which has been dominated by a debate on public nomination of candidates.

Last Thursday, Chan suggested creating a 1,400-strong nominating committee with 317 members directly elected by all three million voters. Her blueprint dispensed with public nomination, which radical pan-democrats consider indispensable.

Anyone who secured nomination from a tenth of the committee's members would be able to run for the top job.

While the odds of Beijing endorsing Chan's proposal are slim, the blueprint might help to bridge the wide divide between Beijing and pan-democrats.

So far, her blueprint appears to have gone down well, with major political forces welcoming it as a good starting point for discussion, or at least not rejecting it outright. And although it omits public nominations, radical pan-democrats can hardly criticise it as undemocratic.

The pro-establishment camp cannot fault Chan's proposal because it omits public nomination, an idea dismissed by mainland officials and experts as inconsistent with the Basic Law.

It was understood major pan-democratic parties were briefed about the proposal two days before it was announced.

Chan's proposal came weeks after the Hong Kong government said discussions should focus on how to form the nominating committee and the nominating process.

Chan told the South China Morning Post: "We consider public nomination to be consistent with the Basic Law requirement.

"However, it is clear that there is strong opposition, in a number of quarters, to this form of nomination and that it could be a major stumbling block to obtaining the two-thirds majority of votes in the Legco, not to mention the ultimate endorsement of the central government."

A moderate pan-democrat said Chan's plan had had the positive impact of bringing the focus of public discussion back to how to make the nominating committee more representative, instead of wasting time on arguing about public nomination.

The proposal by Chan, a heavyweight in the pan-democratic camp, has taken some of the heat off moderate pan-democrats who are eager to engage in dialogue with Beijing.

Most pan-democratic lawmakers have yet to decide whether to accept the central government's invitation to go to Shanghai next month for talks on political reform. Chan urged them to accept "in the overall interests of the Hong Kong community".

"If it is clear that the central government is sincere in wishing to make use of the visit to engage directly with legislators on constitutional reform then, in the overall interests of the Hong Kong community, I think this is an opportunity that should be seized," she said.

The pan-democratic camp has split into two factions. One comprises the radicals, who insist on public nomination. The other consists of the Democratic Party and Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong, who consider it more important that the reform package does not "screen out" dissenting voices.