The Government delayed announcing that the Election Committee that picked six legislators in September would also choose the Chief Executive to avoid attracting candidates hostile to Tung Chee-hwa to run for the body, according to an academic. Otherwise, the July election to form the committee would have been a battlefield with Mr Tung's supporters pitted against his opponents, said Chinese University sociology professor Lau Siu-kai. 'Around May and June, the popularity of the Chief Executive was low and the voices against him loud,' he said on Cable Television. Voters and candidates might have been drawn into a debate on whether Mr Tung should be elected for a second term. Professor Lau said the Government might have feared that too many rivals of the Chief Executive would have become committee members. Even if Mr Tung can secure a second term in 2002, assuming he runs, a low margin of victory would undermine his mandate to rule, said the professor. But he said the Government was wrong to keep the public in the dark on the function of the 800-member committee. Critics were outraged when the Government announced the dual function of the committee and said the decision could be open to legal challenge. The Government responded that the arrangement was consistent with the Basic Law. Meanwhile, Cheung Tat-ming, associate law professor at the University of Hong Kong, called on the 800 Election Committee members to resign to allow a new committee to be formed to elect the next chief executive. He suggested the committee members step down 'out of moral obligation' to help settle the dispute.