A Basic Law Committee heavyweight has dismissed suggestions that holding a primary poll for the 2017 chief executive race would be a regressive move.
Elsie Leung Oi-sie, deputy director of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee and a National People's Congress (NPC) deputy, made the remarks in Beijing after Ming Pao newspaper cited a source saying a primary may be held for the next leadership race.
In response to the report, pan-democratic lawmakers Emily Lau Wai-hing and Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said they would make clear in a United Nations Human Rights Committee preparatory meeting in Geneva today that it would not be universal suffrage if there was a "screening" mechanism in the 2017 election.
But Leung yesterday defended the idea. "Screening is needed in many countries' polls, especially in places with a large population … There are so many voters [in Hong Kong]. How can you elect a chief executive smoothly without screening? But the [electoral] methods have to be reasonable," she said.
Asked if a primary poll would be a regressive move, Leung said: "Discussion on the [electoral reform] has not yet begun. So don't jump to conclusions … We have yet to see how the screening would be done. It would be too arbitrary to say at this stage whether or not it is fair."
In Hong Kong, Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said it was "meaningless" to argue about whether the rumoured "procedures" constituted a primary or screening. He said the debate should focus on whether the nomination would be in line with democratic procedures and public expectations.
Article 45 of the Basic Law states that the ultimate aim is the selection of the chief executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in line with democratic procedures.
In Beijing, NPC deputy Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai said the "democratic procedures" stipulated in the Basic Law could involve "a voting process" or "a primary".
Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan worried that the nominating committee may filter out those with dissenting views, meaning it would not be "genuine universal suffrage".
Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang said candidates should not be screened at the start and the "universal and fair" principle should be upheld.