It does not constitute a violation of the Basic Law to form a provisional legislature before holding the first elections of the Special Administrative Region. It will be a violation, however, if the legislature is appointed. The provisional legislature cannot be formed by the kind of elections specified in the Basic Law for the first legislative council of the SAR. It is because such elections cannot be held in time that an interim law-making body becomes necessary. The Preparatory Committee has decided that it should be elected by the 400-member selection committee which will also choose the chief executive. There is no pretence that such an election can be a substitute for geographical or functional elections. The Preparatory Committee can argue, though, that it is still an election. After all, according to the Basic Law, some of the seats in the first two SAR legislatures will be elected by a similar committee. A Preparatory Committee sub-group met last week to discuss how the election should be arranged. Some members believed that to ensure a smooth transition, the provisional council should consist of as many members in the sitting council as possible. To achieve this they suggested serving legislators should automatically become candidates for the provisional council. Some also proposed that only elected members in the current and previous legislative councils should be eligible. The majority of the sub-group, however, said the provisional legislature election should be independent, and its candidature should not be decided by results of previous elections. Selection committee members should be free to nominate and elect whoever they choose. The sub-group concluded that anyone meeting the relevant requirements in the Basic Law should be allowed to stand for election. Each candidate should be nominated by 10 selection committee members, and each member can nominate up to three candidates. After nomination closes, members of the selection committee will vote by secret ballot, each member choosing not more than 60 from among the candidates. The 600 candidates with the highest votes will be elected, subject to the Basic Law limitation that those who are not of Chinese nationality or who have the right of abode in foreign countries do not exceed 20 per cent. The election's credibility will depend on the composition of the selection committee. Circumstances do not allow the committee to be constituted by elections on a wide franchise, although the Preparatory Committee is inviting nominations from organisations in the territory. If the selection committee is seen as having a high degree of representativeness, it will be acceptable to leave the election of the provisional legislature in its hands. In that case, the arrangements for nomination and election proposed by the sub-group will be appropriate. On the other hand, if the committee lacks representativeness and credibility, the body it elects can hardly be more acceptable than itself, no matter how the election is conducted. The sub-group emphatically denied that the method for forming the provisional legislature was designed with the purpose of excluding people who had dissenting views or who were not liked by the Chinese Government. Chinese leaders are aware of the political price of barring people from elections through political vetting, although they may be happier if some of Hong Kong's more vocal politicians do not appear in future legislatures. If these people choose to show their objection to the provisional legislature by refusing to serve in it, Beijing will have no reason for regret.