The New People's Party failed to impress pan-democrats with its political reform plan yesterday, despite doing away with the need for hopefuls to secure support from half of the nominating committee to run for chief executive - a requirement floated by other Beijing-loyalist groups.
Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who is tipped to run in the 2017 poll, dismissed speculation the proposal was tailored to boost her chances of being put forward by the committee.
Meanwhile former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie yesterday joined the debate about the suggestion from some academics that the public should be allowed to suggest - but not nominate - candidates. Leung, vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee, said making the idea law would not be "practicable" and cast doubt over how the identities of voters recommending hopefuls could be verified.
Ip's party proposed that the committee have 1,200 to 1,600 members, and include new subsectors representing women, the young, small businesses, ethnic minorities and others.
Hopefuls can take part in an internal committee ballot if they win endorsement from one-eighth of committee members.
Each member will have one vote in the internal ballot, and the top three or four candidates will progress to stand in the election.
The proposal offers a lower barrier to nomination than the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's plan, which allows nominating committee members to have multiple votes and requires hopefuls to get support from at least half of the committee.
"[Ours] is a more lenient nominating method, which not only gives myself convenience, but also helps many other people who want to stand," Ip said.
Pan-democrats expect the committee to be stacked with Beijing-loyalists and fear it will "screen out" critical candidates.
Democratic Party lawmaker Sin Chung-kai said Ip's proposal "might still fail to give the people a genuine choice of candidates" because it included screening in the form of the internal ballot.
Sin's comments came as a University of Hong Kong poll revealed growing support for a "three-track" plan - which would allow the public, parties and the nominating committee to put forward candidates. The Alliance for True Democracy commissioned the poll of 1,024 residents last month. Support for the alliance's "three-track" proposal had increased to 45 per cent - 7 points higher than a month ago.
And, after the Bar Association argued that only the nominating committee had the right to put forward candidates under the Basic Law, Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan warned that the association could lose support unless it gave some thought as to "how to safeguard the rights of Hong Kong people".
Additional reporting by Ng Kang-chung