Moderate pan-democratic lawmakers criticised the Liberal Party yesterday for tabling a "conservative" political reform proposal that is likely to exclude dissident voices from the chief executive election in 2017.
The suggestions, raised by Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun in Shanghai on Sunday, include creating a 1,600-member nominating committee that would include 217 of 540 district councillors.
Up to eight candidates would be allowed to stand for a primary election in which each committee member would have up to three votes, with the top three candidates being put forward for millions to choose from.
Speaking on RTHK yesterday, Frederick Fung Kin-kee of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, said: "The proposal has a high threshold, and [it is making] political screening possible, so I can't be bothered to read it."
Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah described the Liberal Party's proposal as "very conservative", making political screening "a certainty".
The pair were referring to political scientists' argument that if nominating committee members were allowed multiple votes, a candidate popular with the public could be discarded if he or she was unpopular with a majority of the committee.
But Tien explained yesterday that he had proposed allowing multiple votes for nominating committee members because the party knew the pan-democrats were worried about more conservative ideas, such as the block voting system used to pick National People's Congress deputies.
The committee is likely to be dominated by Beijing loyalists, as the national legislature has said it should be modelled on the 1,193-member Election Committee, which was elected by about 250,000 voters to pick the chief executive in 2012.
The Liberals suggested increasing the nominating committee's mandate, but they also wanted "to ensure voters are representative of their sectors" - apparently dismissing an idea for employees, not corporations, to choose committee members.
Tong also warned that the Liberal Party must not use the "representation" concept as "an excuse to deprive Hongkongers of their right to take part in the nominating committee's nomination process".
Tong has proposed that candidates should be allowed to stand for the popular vote if they secure the support of one-tenth of a 1,500-member nominating committee.
But Tong added that he welcomed the Liberal Party's proposal because it was the only one tabled by a pro-establishment party so far.
"I welcome their move not because we can accept the proposal, but at least we can have a platform to discuss why they believe that Hongkongers can accept their proposal, and why they cannot accept mine," he said. "At least it is good for starting such a discussion."
Tien submitted the proposal to Wang Guangya, director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, at the meeting of 52 lawmakers with Beijing officials in Shanghai on Sunday.