The leader of the city’s largest political party today defended an electoral proposal it floated for the chief executive election, saying he believes its blueprint would allow rival pan-democrats to be put forward as candidates for the race.
The plan, unveiled by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong yesterday, has attracted criticism from both the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps.
Under the DAB proposal, a nominating committee with 1,200 to 1,600 members will be created. Hopefuls must get support from at least one-tenth of committee members in order to qualify for an internal ballot, so a maximum of 10 hopefuls can qualify. In the internal ballot, each committee member will have up to four votes. The top two to four candidates who win support from at least half of the nominating committee members will then go forward for the public poll.
Political scientists have warned against allowing committee members to have multiple votes, and requiring hopefuls to win more than 50 per cent support. It would mean a hopeful who has strong public backing and support from a minority of committee members would still have no chance of getting onto the ballot paper.
DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung, explaining the blueprint further on a radio programme this morning, dismissed suggestions the plan would make the nominating committee prone to “manipulation” by the central government.
“If the composition of the committee is so broad, and consists of all sectors, is it so easy to control it?”
“All committee members will be independent-minded; they will consider seriously whether a candidate … is capable and suitable for the job,” Tam added.
“When the Basic Law was drafted, it was our hope that the nominating committee will put forward candidates who are acceptable to the central government … if there’s a so-called pan-democrat who is very suitable and capable for the job, I believe the committee members will consider him,” he said.
A two-thirds majority in the Legislative Council is required to pass any reform package, meaning the government has to win over some pan-democrats. When asked yesterday whether their proposal could do so, Tam said: “The people want to choose the chief executive by ’one man, one vote’ and the DAB want to implement [that] in 2017. If some lawmakers insist on their views, which may fail to comply with the Basic Law, and refuse to support a reform package … they might have to explain to the public why [their votes] could have affected the voting rights of more than three million voters.”
Tam said the DAB plan drew on two polls, conducted in February and March. In both polls, some 1,000 residents were asked – among other questions – whether they agreed that candidates should be required to win at least half of the nominating committee’s support. About 58 per cent said “yes” in February, while 55 per cent said “yes” last month.
DAB vice-chairman Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan later revealed that the polls were conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Centre, a subsidiary of the pro-Beijing One Country Two Systems Research Institute, headed by executive councillor and staunch Leung Chun-ying supporter Cheung Chi-kong.
Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said the DAB’s proposal was unacceptable. “Our supporters would not ask us to support such suggestions, and fair-minded Hongkongers would not either,” Lau said. “Maybe some people don’t want universal suffrage, and that’s why they try to derail it.”
Last week, Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun also suggested that under the DAB’s proposal, even pro-establishment lawmakers such as Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee could be screened out by the nominating committee.