A former chief secretary has tabled a political reform proposal omitting the pan-democrats' call for the public to nominate candidates for the 2017 chief executive election, saying she hopes to "bridge the sharp divide" in public opinion.
Instead Anson Chan Fang On-sang, who chairs the discussion group Hong Kong 2020, suggests creating a 1,400-strong nominating committee with 317 members directly elected by all three million voters, to "ensure that all are able to participate in the nomination process".
At a press conference yesterday, Chan said proposals including public nomination were all worthy of consideration.
"We feel that the more proposals there are, the better chance there is … of reaching a consensus," she said.
Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, expressed appreciation of Chan's proposals. "We welcome her approach of returning nearer to the Basic Law," Tam said.
But he added that since the National People's Congress ruled in 2007 that the nominating committee should be modelled on the Election Committee that elected the present chief executive, it would be difficult for Chan's proposal to win majority support from legislators.
The 1,193-member committee consists of four sectors with about 300 members each.
Under Chan's proposal, the first three sectors of the nominating committee would have 300 members each, while the fourth - which she dubbed the political sector - would have 500 members, including 317 who were directly elected.
Anyone who secured nomination from a tenth of the committee's members would be able run for the top job.
Meanwhile legal scholars and political scientists who attending a discussion on political reform organised by the University of Hong Kong called for an overhaul of the nominating committee.
Overseas academics at the seminar suggested that the committee per se did not violate the international standard for universal suffrage, as long as its electoral base could be broadened to make it genuinely representative, and prevent popular candidates being barred.
But they said reforms to the committee should include abolishing all corporate voting. And they called on the committee not to use block voting - as floated by Beijing loyalists - to choose chief executive candidates.
Professor Paul Gronke, a political scientist at Reed College, US, and the editor of the Election Law Journal, was shocked by Beijing's stipulation that the chief executive must be patriotic, a requirement not stated in the city's mini-constitution. It was undemocratic and comparable to "military democracy", he said. "The government should not control candidates' ideology."
University of Hawaii law professor Carole Petersen said any nomination procedure that added new eligibility requirements would be unconstitutional, as all requirements should be in the Basic Law.
In an interview with the China News Service, former Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Lu Ping said the city's chief executive had to be a patriot, meaning he must love "the socialist People's Republic of China" - not just its history and culture.