Beijing's reform guidelines may set out definition of 'democratic', candidate numbers | South China Morning Post
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  • Feb 27, 2015
  • Updated: 1:12pm
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Beijing's reform guidelines may set out definition of 'democratic', candidate numbers

Basic Law Committee member Albert Chen says Standing Committee could also give details of 'democratic procedures' in nominating process

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 7:33am

Beijing could decide next month whether to cap the number of candidates who will be allowed to run for Hong Kong chief executive, a Basic Law expert says.

The central government may also define what is meant by nominating candidates according to "democratic procedures", as stipulated in the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution.

The National People's Congress Standing Committee is expected to give the green light to political reform but reject calls for Hong Kong voters to be allowed to nominate candidates in 2017 - the first time the city will elect its leader by "one person, one vote".

However, in an interview with Cable TV, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, Albert Chen Hung-yee, who is also a member of the Basic Law Committee, said he believed Beijing might do more than that.

"Firstly, it [could] include the question of public nomination. Secondly, the question about the so-called cap on the number of candidates, or whether a cap is needed; and thirdly, the definition of 'democratic procedures'," he said.

Article 45 of the Basic Law states that when electing the chief executive by universal suffrage, candidates shall be nominated by a committee "in accordance with democratic procedures". But it does not elaborate on the definition of "democratic procedures".

In the report that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying submitted to the Standing Committee on Tuesday, he told Beijing that Hong Kong remained divided on both the cap and "democratic procedures" issues.

On the number of candidates, Leung wrote: "There are two major views. One of the views is that … it is necessary to fix the number of candidates. The other view is that there is no need to restrict the number of candidates."

On "democratic procedures", the report stated that while "some consider that the nominating procedures may be divided into two stages" - suggesting an internal primary within the nominating committee - "some however consider that the nomination threshold should remain at one-eighth of the [committee's] membership", effectively opposing a primary election.

Chen later said he had not talked to anyone from the NPC about the likely content of their decision, and he was only "judging from past practice" that it would be possible that Beijing would address those issues.

Occupy Central co-organiser Dr Chan Kin-man urged Beijing to avoid touching on these issues.

"It's very dangerous, and it could become a trigger point for [acts of civil disobedience]," he said. "The local government hasn't started a second round of public consultation yet, and it would be inappropriate for the Standing Committee to go into this much detail … It's also disrespectful to the local government and the people of Hong Kong."

But Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said setting such parameters would still leave room for the government to do its job.

In an article in the Post today, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor reiterates that the administration will carry out a consultation on specific proposals around the end of the year.

She will attend a 90-minute session on Monday to answer lawmakers' questions about political reform.

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