Beijing scholar urges open ballot in 2017 at rowdy reform seminar

But Rao Geping's idea is dismissed as "screening" at rowdy seminar on reform

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 3:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 9:46am

Members of the nominating committee that will pick candidates for chief executive should vote on each candidate individually and reveal how they vote to keep the process "open and transparent", a leading Beijing legal scholar told an often fiery seminar on reform yesterday.

Basic Law Committee member and Peking University academic Rao Geping faced heckles at City University as he set out his ideas for the 2017 poll.

He said committee members would have to vote for or against each candidate put forward. An unspecified number of candidates would then go forward to face the public when the city elects its leader democratically for the first time.

Rao's idea differs from those put forward by most Beijing-loyalist groups, which have generally suggested an internal election of committee members. But pan-democrats, including forum organiser Ronny Tong Ka-wah, said Rao's idea would likewise result in "screening" of candidates critical of Beijing.

"Nominating committee members should vote on the candidates one by one, the result should be made public, and the candidates who got the biggest number of votes can become the candidates … This can help increase voters' right to know about and monitor the work of the committee," Rao argued after a series of groups from across the political spectrum set out their own favoured models for reform.

Rao suggested his idea would be more transparent than an internal election. But Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, said the idea would allow whichever political camp controlled the committee to decide the shortlist. Beijing loyalists are expected to dominate the committee.

Tong also found himself heckled by some pan-democrat supporters. Unlike many in the camp, the Civic Party lawmaker does not insist that the public should be allowed to pick candidates in 2017. Beijing dismisses the idea as against the Basic Law.

Tong hailed a "consensus" among participants on the need for the composition of the nominating committee to differ from the election committee that chose previous chief executives.

But he said abuse from members of radical groups Socialist Action and People Power, some of whom were later removed by security guards, might stop him holding further seminars.

"It was deeply regrettable … As we fight for democracy, I believe we should embrace diversity, but I am worried that what I saw today was rather [the beginning] of mob politics," Tong said.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, leader of the government's consultation on reform, also attended. She received a petition from student activist group Scholarism before the meeting, calling on her to listen to the public on 2017.