Cambridge academic backs plan for public to 'recommend' 2017 chief executive candidate

Cambridge academic urges Hongkongers to accept any proposal that guarantees genuine choice of candidates, stresses need for compromise

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2014, 4:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2014, 11:35am

A University of Cambridge legal scholar has backed a political reform plan which allows all registered voters to non-bindingly recommend - instead of nominate - chief executive candidates for the 2017 poll.

Professor Christopher Forsyth also urged Hongkongers to accept any reform plan that guaranteed a genuine choice of candidates.

Last week, University of Hong Kong constitution expert Professor Michael Davis floated a plan that ignored pan-democrats' call for all voters to be able to nominate candidates and focused on expanding the electoral base of the nominating committee.

"It might pull people from both sides together and be the compromise," Forsyth said .

He added that so-called public recommendation would be compatible with the legal framework set by the Basic Law and the international standard for universal suffrage as reflected in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Under Davis' plan, anyone who secured 10,000 registered voters' signatures of support could be recommended to the nominating committee for consideration but not for "rubber-stamp" approval.

Forsyth disagreed with Beijing-loyalists who argued that even non-binding recommendations might exert undue pressure on the nominating committee.

"In democracy, that's what it's all about," he said, adding the nominating committee should consider people's points of view if it wanted political support. Forsyth and Davis were among scholars on law and politics who participated in an academic roundtable discussion on reform hosted by the University of Hong Kong's faculty of law last month.

The Cambridge academic also called on Hongkongers to accept reform proposals that guaranteed a genuine choice of candidates even if they were not perfect.

"No nominating procedure can be perfect; there has to be compromise," Forsyth said. "There is a real danger if there is no compromise … the reform won't get through in time for the chief executive election.

"The proof of the pudding is going to be in the eating … whether the nominating committee comes out with a range of [candidates] that would give people a real choice," he added.

Forsyth also said Hongkongers should take what they could get first, as he believed the city's democratic development would not come to a halt in 2017.

"It is in the history of many states across the world that once democracy starts, it is very hard to turn it back," he said.