The public should be allowed to suggest hopefuls for the chief executive election to the nominating committee, who would then vote on whether to make them official candidates, a constitutional law scholar has proposed as part of a "dual-track" nomination process.
Professor Simon Young Ngai-man, of the University of Hong Kong's law faculty, suggested two ways for anyone to become a candidate for the top job in 2017.
Under Young's first option, a prospective candidate who gathered signatures of support from at least 5,000 members of the public would qualify to be put to a vote of the nominating committee - the body stipulated in the Basic Law to put forward candidates when universal suffrage arrives in 2017. He or she would need the support of one-eighth of the committee to become a formal candidate.
"There shall be no limit on the number of persons who can be nominated by this method," the proposal reads.
Young criticised the idea of allowing the public to make non-binding recommendations to the nominating committee, as suggested by his HKU colleagues Professor Albert Chen Hung-yee and Professor Michael Davis, as it allowed room for the committee to ignore popular candidates.
"I don't like the expression 'public recommendation' because it suggests that the nominating committee does not need to consider it," Young said.
"Under my proposal, the 5,000 signatures is like an admission ticket to a vote by the nominating committee, so the nominating committee must consider the potential candidate."
Under the second option, prospective candidates could bypass the need for public signatures and gain backing purely from the nominating committee. This would involve two steps.
Hopefuls would first need the backing of at least one-eighth of the committee's members.
A second round of voting would then be held on all of the hopefuls who secured that minimum level of support, in order to select three to be sent forward as formal candidates.
All formal candidates would then face a public vote.
Young expected the public track would generate three formal candidates at most, making the total number within "the [acceptable] range indicated by the central government", he said.
Officials have repeatedly said that the nominating committee is the "only" institution with the power to nominate chief executive candidates in accordance with the city's mini-constitution.
To become chief executive, a candidate would have to secure at least 50 per cent of the public vote, Young said.
Young called for the creation of an independent election reform committee - preferably headed by a judge - to oversee the formation of the nominating committee.