A group of scholars believe they have found a way to give the public a strong role in putting forward chief executive candidates in 2017 without breaching the city's mini-constitution.
The plan, from a group of 18 academics, is the latest attempt to ease tension between pan-democrats, who want the public to pick hopefuls, and the local and central governments, which are insisting only the nominating committee stipulated in the Basic Law will have that power.
Under the plan, a candidate who received signatures of support from two per cent of registered voters - approximately 70,000 people - would see their name put to the 1,200-strong committee as a possible candidate. Political parties and committee members would also be able to put forward candidates, who would need the support of one-eighth of the committee to go forward to the election in which the public will choose the city's leader for the first time.
The committee would also be made more democratic with the abolition of corporate voting to select its members, they propose.
The academics include Dr Brian Fong Chi-hang, vice-chairman of think tank SynergyNet; former Legislative Council president Andrew Wong Wang-fat, who now lectures at Chinese University; and Community Care Fund head Dr Law Chi-kwong.
Fong said the relatively high threshold of 70,000 voters would give committee members a strong sense of the public's support for a particular candidate.
Public recommendation would not dilute the committee's power but would help members perform their duties, said another of the scholars, University of Hong Kong law lecturer Eric Cheung Tat-ming.
Cheung said the proposal, like those by former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang and by two HKU legal scholars, was intended to build a system rooted in "political reality" but which would allow a range of candidates to run. "It might not be the most ideal proposal but it would offer Hongkongers a genuine choice," he said.
Basic Law Committee member and University of Hong Kong law professor Albert Chen Hung-yee said the proposal was worth consideration, saying public recommendation respected the committee's nominating power more than public nomination.