Business interests must be protected in any reform of Hong Kong's political system, a Beijing legal scholar said, amid debate over how the chief executive should be elected in 2017.
Professor Wang Zhenmin told a Hong Kong seminar that businessmen should not be drowned out by the crowd when one man, one vote arrived, as their role in keeping the city prosperous was vital and the "slice of the pie" would be shared by all.
The Tsinghua University law dean was explaining why the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress had put forward a restrictive framework for the 2017 poll in which candidates would be chosen by a nominating committee.
"Universal suffrage is not just a political issue," said Wang, a former member of the Basic Law Committee under the Standing Committee. "It also means redistribution of economic interests."
He said full consideration had to be given to the concerns of the business community, "so we require the nominating committee" and functional constituencies representing business interests in the Legislative Council.
The nominating committee is expected to be modelled on the election committee that chose previous chief executives, whose members were drawn from four sectors, including business and professionals.
The Standing Committee is expected to insist when it makes its decision on Sunday that candidates gather support from half the nominating committee before facing the public. Its draft decision, published on Wednesday, said trade-based Legco seats would stay at the 2016 election.
Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming said he could not accept a regressive proposal that continued to protect sectoral interests. "We have been cheated long enough," said Lee, who fears a committee stacked with Beijing loyalists would block liberal candidates.
Southern District councillor Paul Zimmerman told Wang a system designed for business interests was "fake democracy".
In Beijing, NPC deputy Cheng Yiu-tong said it was mere "coincidence" that the draft was almost identical to a proposal by the Federation of Trade Unions, of which he is honorary president.