THERE will be no level playing-field in the forthcoming Legislative Council elections if those appointed to prominent positions on advisory bodies are allowed to use these credentials to boost their chances of success at the ballot box. Transport Advisory Committee (TAC) Chairman Raymond Ho Chung-tai's announcement that he will stand for the engineering functional constituency presents the Government with a dilemma. On the one hand, it wants to do everything possible to encourage the maximum number of candidates, especially in professional seats that traditionally attract few contenders. Yet, on the other hand, there is the very real danger of allowing Mr Ho to coast to victory on the strength of an appointed position. The TAC chairman may be sincere in pledging not to exploit his post for electoral advantage in the forthcoming campaign, but he will still enjoy an unfair advantage in terms of increased name recognition that his appointment brings. While the other candidates for the seat will have to confine their publicity efforts within an $80,000 electoral expenses limit, Mr Ho will reap the benefits of the extensive free publicity that any statement from a TAC chairman attracts. Such problems are part of Hong Kong's curious constitutional hybrid: where increased democracy uneasily co-exists with powerful, but wholly-appointed, advisory bodies. In an ideal world, it might be argued no one should be allowed to use such appointed positions as a springboard for an election campaign. Yet that would not only prevent legislators Allen Lee Peng-fei and Christine Loh Kung-wai from standing but also be unmanageable, given the Government has more than 350 advisory bodies. However, it is not only feasible but essential to force chairmen of particularly prominent committees, such as the TAC, to choose between their political aspirations and a public service position. Mr Ho says he was never asked by the Government about his electoral ambitions before being offered his present post. That seems a strange oversight and one which must be corrected, for all future such appointments. In the meantime, Mr Ho should take the honourable course and resign as TAC chairman, to guarantee a level playing-field in the forthcoming Legco campaign; and, if he refuses to do so then it will be up to the Government to revoke his appointment.