Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Legal scholar Albert Chen gives up on ‘blank vote’ proposal for political reform

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 March, 2015, 1:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 March, 2015, 10:36pm

A prominent Hong Kong legal scholar says he will no longer push through a compromise proposal for the 2017 chief executive election after both pan-democrats and pro-Beijing figures poured cold water on it.

In a television interview aired this morning, Albert Chen Hung-yee, a constitutional law expert and member of the National People’s Congress Basic Law Committee, said: “At this stage I can’t see any proposal will be accepted by both camps”.

Chen, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, had been promoting a proposal that suggests giving voters in 2017 a “none of the above” option on the ballot paper.

Under the plan, if “none of the above” accounts for 50 per cent of the vote or more, there has to be a revote. It is intended to put pressure on the candidates, handpicked by a 1,200-strong nominating body, to lobby for support of the public as well as that of the committee members. Pan-democrats call it a “passive” scheme and dislike the high threshold for a revote, while the pro-Beijing side does not want to give the public veto power.

Abandoning the plan, Chen reiterated his earlier idea that the government should commission an independent party, such as a former chief justice, to conduct a public opinion poll to ask Hongkongers whether the reform package should be vetoed by lawmakers or not.

Meanwhile, Chen’s colleague and another constitutional law professor, Johannes Chan Man-mun, told the South China Morning Post that he submitted a reform proposal to the government earlier.

In what he calls a “20 per cent-net support votes scheme”, every voter can vote for or against any candidate. A successful candidate needs to secure not just the highest number of votes but also a margin of at least 20 per cent net support votes. If no one achieves that, there will be a revote and if the failure repeats, the nomination process shall be restarted.

Chan’s latest scheme is a further compromise from his previous one, which stated that a candidate would fail anyway if there were 20 per cent negative votes against him, no matter how many positive votes he got.

The government has insisted it will not deviate from Beijing's framework for political reform, under which two or three candidates for the 2017 chief excecutive election will seek public votes, after winning majority support from the 1,200-strong committee.