Allowing Hongkongers to make "non-binding" recommendations for chief executive candidates to run in the 2017 election is less likely to violate the city's mini-constitution, the Secretary for Justice says.
Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung was yesterday referring to an electoral reform idea put forward by Basic Law Committee member Albert Chen Hung-yee, a University of Hong Kong law professor.
Chen had suggested a two-stage nominating procedure: first allowing the public to "recommend" candidates, then having the nominating committee select a number of those candidates from the list.
But the idea was criticised by the city's pan-democrats. They argued that anyone who secured a certain number of nominations should be allowed to enter the race without having to be vetted or approved by the committee.
Whether the committee had the right to refuse the "recommended" candidates would be the crux of the discussion, Yuen said in an online interview with Democrats leader Emily Lau Wai-hing yesterday.
"The two [situations] have a great difference," he said. "If the nominating procedure allows the committee to decide whether to put forward the candidates [recommended by the public], the chances that it might violate Article 45 in the Basic Law would be greatly reduced.
And while Beijing officials have said the candidates must "love China, love Hong Kong", Yuen admitted it would be hard to write this into legislation.
Meanwhile, a preview of the Alliance for True Democracy's reform plan, expected to be officially announced tomorrow, argued against allowing the nominating committee the power to reject candidates recommended by the public.
According to the plan by the group of 26 of the 27 pan-democratic lawmakers, candidates can be nominated by the nominating committee, a political party or the public.
It did not say all three options were indispensible, but stated that the committee should not refuse to endorse any candidate nominated by political parties or the public.
The alliance also urged the government not to require the candidates to "love China, love Hong Kong" in an attempt to politically screen them out.
Separately, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday invited the first batch of lawmakers to her Peak residence for dinner to discuss the reform.
"She is testing pan-democrats' bottom line and see if there is any room for concession," one pan-democrat said. "But we have reiterated our principles."
After the dinner, constitution minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said lawmakers were still split over the nominating procedure. "Judging by tonight's dinner, I believe there is still a long and difficult way to go to ensure the government's reform proposal will receive two-thirds of the lawmakers' support," he said.