The procedures for selection of the chief executive proposed in Beijing last night provide a welcome recognition of the importance of transparency in picking the person who will guide Hong Kong's future. After months of speculation, it appears a more open-minded attitude has prevailed than many in the territory had expected. There is still a possibility that the Preparatory Committee leadership may try to overrule the sub-group on the formation of the Selection Committee on some details. But it would be hard to justify blocking proposals clearly designed to raise the legitimacy of the selection process, and to open it up to at least some public scrutiny. The most significant injection of transparency is the proposal that candidates for chief executive present themselves to the Selection Committee in front of the media. The accounts they provide of their intentions - and perhaps a full electoral platform - will thus be passed on to the public through the press, radio and television. The choice of chief executive is far from a popular democratic election, but the more the public knows about the candidates, their views and their plans for Hong Kong, the better for everybody. Just because the selection will be done by a group of chosen committee members does not mean that those who will be governed by the chief executive should not know as much as possible about their future leader and have a benchmark against which his performance could be judged. Beyond that, it would be an excellent step for candidates to decide to go out to meet the public. The mere knowledge that at least some of what they tell the Selection Committee will be passed on by the media may encourage serious candidates to take the initiative themselves to build up their positions. Such a step could boost their image as future leaders of the territory, and help to put them in real touch with the wider interests of Hong Kong as seen by its people. This cannot, of course, be forced on the candidates. Still, it is encouraging that a likely front-runner, Tung Chee-hwa, has told Democratic legislator Tsang Kin-shing he would try to meet people from all walks of life as the Governor, Chris Patten, did when he first arrived in Hong Kong. The selection period should be a time for candidates to talk about the territory's future with as wide a range of Hong Kong opinion as possible. The chief executive is meant to be the representative of the Special Administrative Region as a whole, not of sectional interests. A number of other proposals disclosed last night will also render the selection process more transparent than had initially been expected. Not the least of these is the plan to publish the names of the candidates' proposers. That will make the nature of each candidate's support clear, not only to other members of the Selection Committee but also to the public. Another useful step has been to cut the number of members required as supporters by each candidate to 50 from 100 as previously suggested. This will also make it easier to focus on the nature of any candidate's backers, while opening the way for twice as many candidates to run. With the selection process apparently defined in its broad lines, it may be hoped that more prospective candidates will now feel ready to put themselves forward. One danger has always been that if the field of candidates is too small it would undermine the process and its final choice, producing accusations that - whatever the measures proposed last night - the whole process had been rigged. Another danger is that pressure of time will compress the process, and deprive Hong Kong of the opportunity to make its views properly felt. The sooner a real discussion starts about the way the territory will be run after 1997 the better. And the more public that discussion is, the better, too.