Opposing camps cast doubt over moderate reform plan

Scholars' proposal, aimed at seeking compromise, finds little support among both pro-establishment and pan-democratic lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 4:29am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 4:29am

A reform proposal aimed at the middle ground has been met with reservations from both the pro-establishment and pan-democratic camps after a group of economists submitted it to the government last week.

The 13 scholars yesterday elaborated on their proposal of using a "list system" to nominate the next chief executive in 2017.

"Our proposal encourages both camps to negotiate, seek the middle ground and come up with moderate candidates," said Chinese University economics professor Sung Yun-wing.

The National People's Congress Standing Committee is due to set out its framework for the election of Hong Kong's leader through universal suffrage.

In the scholars' proposal, they focused on making the nominating committee - which is required under the Basic Law - more democratically elected and less likely to oust candidates favoured by the pan-democrats.

Under the proposed "list system", those who want to run for the election would first have to be endorsed by 10 per cent of a 2,400-strong nominating committee, before going on to win 20 per cent of their vote.

Those who manage to do so - likely only about two to four people - would then form a list of candidates, which would have to be approved by at least 50 per cent of the committee before the candidates would be allowed to go on to the public vote.

If not, the whole process of selecting candidates would have to start all over again.

The proposal's all-or-nothing approach is intended to avoid "unreasonable screening" of candidates for political reasons, the scholars said, although they acknowledged it could take a long time for a winner to emerge using the system.

"A solution is to raise the threshold for the new round," Sung said.

He said the threshold to have a candidate's name on the list could be raised from 20 per cent to 66 per cent, and the list of selected candidates could be required to garner at least 75 per cent of the nominating committee's approval instead of half.

But pan-democratic lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee found even the 50 per cent threshold too high.

"I also don't like the idea of binding candidates from both camps on a list to be passed or vetoed by the committee," he said. "This runs against an individual's right - not a collective right - to run in elections under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

Pro-establishment lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin also expressed doubt about the proposal.

It would not be easy for both sides to sit down together to come up with candidates' names for the election, he said.

"It's an academic proposal, well-intended. But in politics, it's you win or you die," he said.