The pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong yesterday restated its support for the direct election of the chief executive in 2007 but called for a mechanism to be put in place to filter out candidates not acceptable to the central government. Executive Councillor Tsang Yok-sing, who stepped down as DAB chairman after its poor showing in last month's district council elections, said a restrictive nomination committee similar to that used to select the current chief executive could be adopted to filter out undesirable candidates. His comments came after mainland legal experts were quoted last week as saying it was a 'misunderstanding' for people in Hong Kong to regard constitutional changes as 'entirely the special administrative region's internal affair'. Mr Tsang said he believed a filtering system could allay central government concerns and calm the fears of people who opposed universal suffrage on the grounds that dire consequences could result if it was implemented. 'Although the first one or two terms of the chief executive may face a greater limitation, such as the method of nomination is similar to that used by the election committee ... once universal suffrage is introduced, the whole political culture of Hong Kong will undergo a drastic change,' Mr Tsang told RTHK. 'Even if the first time [that an election is introduced] is not truly [democratic], no matter what, it would mark an improvement over the Election Committee at present,' he said, adding that candidates would need to face the public and canvass support. At present, a candidate for the post of the chief executive needs to secure nomination by 100 members of the Election Committee. Article 45 of the Basic Law says Hong Kong should aim to select a chief executive by universal suffrage from among candidates nominated by a representative committee. The mainland legal experts said Appendix 1 of the Basic Law stipulates that changes to the method of electing the chief executive after 2007 must first be agreed by two-thirds of Legco members and by the chief executive, and be approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Democratic Party chairman Yeung Sum rejected Mr Tsang's suggestion, saying the party would only support a nomination committee if it helped candidates to stand in the election. 'Otherwise, Hong Kong people may choose to boycott the election,' Dr Yeung said. Cyd Ho Sau-lan, of The Frontier, said what people wanted was not a 'superficial' but a true 'one man, one vote'. The head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, said the legal experts' intervention reminded him of the June 1999 reinterpretation of the right-of-abode provisions in the Basic Law by the NPC's Congress Standing Committee, which overturned the Court of Final Appeal ruling in that year. 'I hope that they won't intervene again in Hong Kong's constitutional affairs,' he said. But veteran China-watcher Johnny Lau Yui-shiu said it was an 'unrealistic' goal of the pro-democracy camp to achieve 'real' universal suffrage in 2007. Mr Lau said what Mr Tsang proposed was an acceptable method to select the next chief executive given the present political situation, as it could convince Beijing that the elected chief executive would be acceptable to the leaders.