Anson Chan Fang On-sang has attacked the functional constituency election system, accusing it of dividing society into first and second-class citizens. She said the heart of political debate should be 'the pace at which indirect election through functional constituencies are phased out to reach the Basic Law goal of universal suffrage'. Mrs Chan, the Chief Secretary for Administration, made the criticism in an article in the Government's Hong Kong 1999 - a publication looking at progress during the year. The text was released ahead of the start of nominations for September's Legislative Council elections today. Of the 60 seats up for grabs, 30 go to functional constituencies - groups with small numbers of electors from sectors such as medicine and accountancy. The geographical constituencies have 24 seats, while the 800-member Election Committee will choose six. The Basic Law provides a 10-year timetable for the gradual increase of geographical constituency seats to comprise up to half of the legislature by 2007, with the other half set aside for functional representatives. But a switch to direct elections is possible under a set of conditions including two-thirds majority support from the legislature and the consent of the Chief Executive. The Government has said a review of the pace of moves towards democracy will begin after September's elections. Although the three main political parties have called for full universal suffrage in 2008, Tung Chee-hwa has been non-committal. Tycoons, including Peter Woo Kwong-ching, Gordon Wu Ying-sheung and Ronnie Chan, have lined up to call for the retention of functional constituencies. Mrs Chan wrote: 'It will be important to balance the interests of every section of the community and to arrive at a consensus so that all of our citizens feel they have an equal voice in the way they are governed. It would be extremely divisive to split the community into first and second-class citizens.' In the article, entitled 'Hong Kong gears up for a world without walls', Mrs Chan admitted there were 'internal contradictions' within the post-handover political framework. 'The executive does not have a governing part in the Legislative Council - it can barely rely on a single vote. At the same time, legislators are frustrated by their perceived lack of participation in the policy-making process. 'The question Hong Kong must ask itself is: are the present arrangements sustainable in the long term? If they are not, what would be better, more workable?' She said people needed to narrow their differences and arrive at a uniquely Hong Kong solution with broad public support. Eric Li Ka-cheung, a former legislator who has represented the accountancy functional constituency since 1991, said Mrs Chan's remarks were fundamentally against the original merits of functional constituencies. 'It's strange. We can't ignore the background. Nobody wants to see the differentiation of two classes. It's a transitional arrangement due to historical reasons.' Dr Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at the City University, said Mrs Chan's comments were enlightened. 'The fact remains two major parties, the Liberal Party and the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance, have no plans to put up a full fight in direct elections. The Government has to clearly indicate it fully respects the majority view of the people and it is also obliged to explain to Beijing they need to respect our majority view.'