Executive councillor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun says the nominating committee for the 2017 chief executive election should put forward only "capable" patriots who would not confront Beijing, in order to eliminate the possibility of someone confrontational winning the election after "smearing" rivals for the top job.
Law, who headed Leung Chun-ying's office in 2012 when he was chief executive-elect, also said that while she did not believe all pan-democrats were confrontational to Beijing or unpatriotic, the 2017 poll shouldn't be regarded as "regressive" even if no democrats were nominated.
She made the remarks after attending Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing's talk show on the Our TV website yesterday.
"Smear tactics can happen any time during an election," she said. "But if the nominating committee put forward candidates that are not confrontational towards Beijing, it doesn't really matter who wins."
Law cited the "senseless" allegations that Leung had had dinner with people linked to triad gangs as an example of a smear.
"We knew we did not have triad links. But Hongkongers believed and were scared and [Leung's] popularity plunged," Law said.
She said it was normal for a candidate to lose because he lacked ability, a good manifesto or vision, "but we don't want to see a good candidate lose because of some groundless accusations that frighten Hongkongers."
On the nominating committee's power, Law said she understood Beijing felt its "gatekeeping" role should come into effect well before the final stage of appointing the new leader.
"So a reasonable deduction about earlier gatekeeping must be that the candidates are people who 'love the country, love Hong Kong' and are not confrontational towards the central government," she said.
Law said she was not suggesting that Beijing have a favourite who must win.
"But I firmly believe that it is difficult for someone to [rule] Hong Kong if he doesn't identify himself with the country, or does things that oppose it … we will have to see how the nominating committee makes its decision."
Pan-democratic lawmakers Alan Leong Kah-kit and Albert Ho Chun-yan won nomination and lost in the chief executive races in 2007 and 2012, respectively.
Scholars and several former officials have argued that the effectiveness of political reform will be weakened if the future system denies Hongkongers a genuine choice between candidates representing different political beliefs. But Law said she disagreed with that view.
"Since we are electing a capable chief executive, we should use objective criteria, instead of making sure people from a certain background can enter," she said.