Executive Council member Bernard Chan says more people could be allowed to vote for members of the nominating committee that will pick candidates to lead the city in 2017 as he urged Hongkongers to accept Beijing's model for reform.
He also reiterated that he would not run for chief executive in 2017 - even if the reform package overcomes opposition from pan-democrats to pass through the Legislative Council.
"My view is that Hong Kong people have to prove to the central government that we can exercise our right to vote rationally" by electing a leader who does not threaten national security, Chan said yesterday.
"Once the trust is built, the gate will be opened. I believe that by then, Beijing will be more willing to accept more liberal proposals," said Chan, a deputy to the National People's Congress.
He cited a suggestion by a group of 13 scholars that the nominating committee be extended from 1,200 to 2,400 members, with half elected by the public.
The NPC Standing Committee voted on Sunday to cap the number of candidates in the 2017 election at two or three and insist they each win the support of over 50 per cent of a nominating committee, which is to be based on the election committee that decided the 2012 poll. Just 250,000 people and corporations had votes for the election committee.
"As a member of the election committee, I hope to have a bigger mandate. My sector has agreed to broaden our voter base tenfold," said Chan, who was voted into the body by the 127 corporations that hold votes in the insurance subsector, the second smallest of 38 subsectors that elect the bulk of the committee.
Chan said his sector had decided that each corporation should have multiple votes, perhaps given to their directors. The financial services subsector, with 573 voters, earlier indicated it would let more people vote.
He also noted that Sunday's decision did not set down how the committee would choose candidates, raising the possibility of would-be candidates vying for public support in an American-style "primary" in the hope of influencing the committee.
"The primary is important because those aspirants can still lobby for public support, taking part in television debates. The committee cannot ignore public opinion," he said.
Chan had been tipped to run for the top job, but said he would be too busy taking care of his family's businesses.
Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, agreed with Chan and said Beijing's concern was avoiding a "confrontational" leader.
"It is willing to bear some risk, because in such an election, public opinion will play an increasing role," Lau told a radio interview.
The reform package must now be finalised by the government and win a two-thirds majority in the 70-strong Legco. The 27 pan-democratic lawmakers have vowed to veto it, but most rejected the idea of a mass resignation, as suggested by radical group People Power.