Government 'very unlikely' to include public or party nomination in reform plan

Ideas from the likes of Anson Chan and Ronny Tong may feature in second consultation, but public or party nomination dead, officials say

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 5:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 8:02am

Proposals for the public or political parties to nominate chief executive hopefuls in 2017 were "very unlikely" to be included in the second phase of public consultations on electoral reform because of legal and political uncertainties, officials said yesterday.

But constitutional affairs minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said models floated by moderate pan-democrats - such as allowing the public to "recommend" candidates in a non-binding manner - were still on the table.

The five-month first phase of public consultation on electoral reform ended on May 3.

"Public nomination, party nomination and the three-track model are controversial from a legal perspective and it would be difficult to forge a consensus. There would be difficulty implementing them as well," Tam, one of three members of a government taskforce on electoral reform, told a media briefing.

Under the Alliance for True Democracy's three-track proposal, the public and political parties would nominate candidates that a nominating committee would formally approve.

"The odds of these plans being included in the government proposal for the second phase of public consultation are very low," Tam said.

In the next two months, the government will compile a report collating the 130,000 submissions from the first stage of consultations. It is expected to announce its own proposal by the end of the year at the earliest.

Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, another member of the taskforce, said anyone who disagreed with the government's stance could take legal action. But he warned the ultimate power to interpret the Basic Law rested with the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

The taskforce remained positive about proposals by moderate pan-democrats including the Civic Party's Ronny Tong Ka-wah and former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, which don't feature public nomination but focus on keeping a low threshold for candidates' nomination.

"[We hope] these proposals can draw on each others' strengths and maybe consolidate into a single plan," Tam said.

Still, he said it would be "impractical" to directly elect some members of the nominating committee, as some - including Chan - suggest, because this might mean too many elections. Including more directly elected district councillors might be a way to make the committee more representative, Tam said.

The officials said it was unlikely there would be big changes for the 2016 Legislative Council poll.

Tong called on Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the other member of the taskforce, to explain how the government would ensure people have a real choice in the 2017 poll given public nomination was ruled out.

"I hope she can confirm that the moderate proposals' directions are acceptable … otherwise Hongkongers might lose hope [of achieving] universal suffrage," Tong warned.