The justice chief yesterday cited a fresh argument against public nomination of candidates for chief executive as Beijing’s Hong Kong propaganda chief highlighted China's power to declare a “state of emergency” if it ever deemed the government had lost control of the city.
As the debate on electoral reform in Hong Kong continued to heat up, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung stopped short of dismissing the concept of public nomination as unconstitutional, suggesting that the three-track proposal floated by pan-democrats on Wednesday - which would allow for nominations from the public and political parties that would be approved as a formality by the nominating committee - could go against the mini-constitution.
Allowing the public to nominate candidates could violate Beijing's requirement of "balanced participation", Yuen said.
"Someone suggested - I'm not saying this is necessarily the case - that it's very likely that candidates with the backing of a big political party, or a big bloc, will have stronger financial power and mobilisation power."
This might lead to candidates securing nominations only from a particular sector or social class. "Will this be inconsistent with the principle of balanced participation as decided by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress?" Yuen asked.
Yuen's comments came as Hao Tiechuan, the publicity director of the central government's liaison office, highlighted Beijing's power - granted by Article 18 of the Basic Law - to impose a "state of emergency" if it deemed that the city's government had lost control and national unity or security was endangered.
Hao did not say if his remarks were in response to pan-democrats' planned Occupy Central campaign.
At a separate event, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen denied that Yuen's remarks contradicted his own previous comments. "I have never said whether anything contravenes the Basic Law or not," he said.
On the Alliance for True Democracy's three-track proposal, Yuen said the suggestion that the nominating committee should merely approve public and party nominations could, in fact, be unconstitutional.
"If the nominating committee ... has no choice but to confirm, as a matter of formality, [all] the nominations that got a certain [share] of the public's support ... this stands a high chance of violating the Basic Law," he said.
Pan-democrats have been split this week over whether to treat all three tracks of the proposal as "indispensable", with alliance convenor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek refusing to clarify the matter.
The Democratic Party has opposed bundling the three channels, drawing criticism from the People Power group and the League of Social Democrats.
Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said party members remained focused on fighting for a reform proposal that would allow people of different political beliefs to run for chief executive.