A leading University of Hong Kong economist and the Democratic Party chairwoman have both called on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to delay submitting his report on electoral reform to Beijing until October, instead of this week.
HKU political economy professor Richard Wong Yue-chim wrote to the Post on Friday saying that after Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor unveiled the government's electoral reform report, Leung should hold off submitting it to Beijing as the public would need more time to discuss it.
"Political opinions in society need some breathing space to engage each other for this process to ferment. For this reason, the chief executive's report should not be rushed and [he] can wait until early October before submitting his report" to the National People's Congress Standing Committee, Wong wrote.
"The Legislative Council would also have returned from its summer recess. This delay will not be material, as the Standing Committee meets every two months. There will still be enough time to complete the five-step process," Wong added, referring to the procedures required to complete reform.
Lam said yesterday that she realised Wong was trying to be helpful, but the government intended to stick to its original plan.
It is understood that Wong's view represents that of a group of 13 economists and academics, which made a similar call in a joint statement issued on Friday. The group of academics tabled a political-reform proposal calling for a nominating committee of up to 2,400 members in April.
Speaking on TVB's On The Record yesterday, Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing endorsed the academics' idea. "We feel that the hardliners have the upper hand in Beijing, and if Beijing has to make a decision now, the National People's Congress Standing Committee's decision [in August] is likely to be an inauspicious one … and one that triggers [a large-scale protest]," Lau said.
Asked what she expected a two-month buffer might deliver, Lau said: "If more organisations in Hong Kong are willing to talk, find space, and come up with a proposal that can be considered by different [stakeholders], I think Beijing might change their rigid and tough attitude."
But executive councillor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun disagreed. "Even if we have two more months, maybe the people will still be arguing about public nomination … I think it won't make a big difference," Law told an RTHK interviewer yesterday.
Basic Law Committee deputy director Elsie Leung Oi-sie also dismissed the academics' suggestion, saying that the report had to be handed in and could not be dragged out "forever".
Leung also said that since the government's report had not come out yet, she did not understand why the Bar Association issued a statement on reform on Friday. It warned that the government would be "abusing the concept of the rule of law" if it rejected the notion of voters nominating chief executive candidates without offering alternatives.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said the government would mention public nomination in its report as it was proposed during the consultation period. But after the report is released on Tuesday, the focus should be on the nominating committee's formation, he said.