Hong Kong must uphold the interests of businessmen as it moves towards universal suffrage to protect capitalism and meritocracy, top mainland legal expert Wang Zhenmin has said.
Wang, the dean of law at Tsinghua University and a former Basic Law Committee member, said the business sector must continue to have a voice in the nominating committee that will vet and pick chief executive candidates.
"The business and professional sectors will constitute a minority when universal suffrage arrives. But their voices are important so we need to ensure they can still serve their main function - maintaining the city's prosperity - or else Hong Kong will face great problems," Wang said at a legal forum yesterday. "This is also to retain meritocracy in politics … and capitalism."
Wang's remarks come amid a heated debate on how chief executive candidates should be nominated in 2017.
The Basic Law states candidates should be put forward by "a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures". But pan-democrats want both voters and political parties to also be granted nominating rights, arguing it does not necessarily violate the mini-constitution.
When asked about the legality of the pan-democrats' "three-track" proposal, Wang said the committee's "organisational nomination" was the only approach allowed by law.
"The public is free to discuss all ideas, but the government cannot introduce anything not allowed in the law," he said.
In another forum, Basic Law Committee deputy director Elsie Leung Oi-sie said public and party nominations were "too distant" from the political system.
"[It] would deviate too much from the current election committee," said Leung, a former secretary for justice. The size of the nominating committee was open for discussion as long as changes were not "too drastic". She has previously opposed proposals that suggested including the city's 412 elected district councillors on the committee.
Leung called on Hongkongers to "implement universal suffrage then seek further progress".
Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong warned of "mutual destruction" if all political parties insisted on their views.
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who spoke at the same forum as Wang, said his "meritocracy in politics" statement had "no legal standing".