A top legal scholar has urged fellow democracy advocates to set aside their call for the public to be allowed to pick candidates for the 2017 chief executive election, for the greater good.
Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun said public nomination, a key demand of many pan-democrats, should for now be put aside to forge consensus as hopes for political reform hang in the balance. Instead, pan-democrats should ensure the 2017 poll was free of arbitrary "screening" of candidates critical of Beijing.
"If a consensus over public nomination cannot be reached, we should try to put aside the differences … and focus on the nominating methods," Chan said, a week to the day before the government's consultation on reform ends.
Local and central government officials say allowing the public to choose hopefuls when the city elects its leader for the first time would breach the Basic Law, which gives the task to a nominating committee. Pan-democrats fear the committee will screen out critical candidates, especially as Beijing insists the city's leader must be a "patriot".
The reform package must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the Legislative Council, meaning it must have some pan-democrats' support, leading to doubts about whether a deal can be achieved.
Executive Council member Bernard Chan was the latest to express concern. "Being part of China ... we cannot pick a chief executive who does not communicate with the central government," he said. "If we don't bridge our differences … I am concerned about whether we can even finish [the reforms]."
Meanwhile, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said he believed some pan-democrats were "patriotic" and were therefore "not necessarily ruled out of the race".