Blank votes cast for the next chief executive election should be considered as valid ballots that carry a message, says former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen. The remarks by Tang, now a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference's Standing Committee, come as the second round of consultation on political reform is due to end on March 7. "Blank votes should not be hastily regarded as invalid votes as they have reflected the preferences of the voters," Tang said. The idea of giving Hongkongers a veto over all candidates for chief executive was first touted by Basic Law Committee member Professor Albert Chen Hung-yee in an attempt to break the impasse. He proposed that the chief executive election could be started afresh if more than half of the eligible voters cast a blank vote. When asked if he backed Chen's proposal, Tang said he was asking voters to explore and discuss how blank votes should be treated. Pro-Beijing executive councillor Cheng Yiu-tong, also a local delegate to the National People's Congress, opposed the blank-vote option saying it would be meaningless to explore the idea which was only given a lukewarm response by pan-democrats. A government official, who wished to remain anonymous, echoed Cheng's frustration. "We could try to convince Beijing to back the none-of-the-above option if it could be [part of] a political deal with the pan-democratic lawmakers. Unfortunately, so far, almost none of them has shown interest towards it," the source said. Meanwhile, Tang, once an advocate for a more representative nominating committee, lamented that it may be too late to overhaul to the 1,200-strong grouping. "It is quite disappointing that society has failed to focus on discussing [the formation of the nominating committee] and has wasted a considerable amount of time," he said. "[It is tough] to further widen the committee's franchise as we do not have enough time for such a controversial debate."