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Pui Kwan-kay. Photo: Dickson Lee

Football guru defends make-up of sport sector on Election Committee

Renowned football guru Pui Kwan-kay is lesser known as one of the privileged few who can elect the chief executive, a right that remains confined to 1,200 members of the public.

Renowned football guru Pui Kwan-kay is lesser known as one of the privileged few who can elect the chief executive, a right that remains confined to 1,200 members of the public.

Pui took part in the 2002 exercise renewing Tung Chee-hwa's term, and then in the 2007 and 2012 elections that saw Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Leung Chun-ying rise to power.

The vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Football Association and chairman of the Citizen Athletic Association was on three occasions returned in the sports subsector in the Election Committee, the body that the nominating committee will be modelled on under the proposed electoral reforms. That committee will decide who can stand as chief executive candidates when all eligible voters get a say in 2017.

Pui, whose seat was uncontested, conceded that representatives in his subsector had remained largely the same over the years. Still, he said: "I disagree with the criticism that the seats in our subsector are dominated by a tiny number of people. I'm adamant that the Election Committee members in our sector can truly represent the sector."

"Who can vote" is always a question facing sectors like Pui's, in which votes are allocated to entities rather than individuals.

Pui said corporate votes within the sports subsector numbered about 1,000. The Registration and Electoral Office published on its website a long list of organisations that are eligible to join the subsector, ranging from statutory bodies affiliated to the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, to smaller groups like the Hong Kong Tai Chi Association.

In principle, Pui agreed that the voter base of the Election Committee should be widened in future. In practice, however, he had reservations about granting the franchise to everyone in the sports subsector.

"The subsector is supposed to represent athletic associations' views. It may be inappropriate if all members of a football club become voters in the sector."

But not everyone who now benefits from what critics call a "small circle" chief executive election are happy with the status quo, especially committee members on the other end of the spectrum, who were returned by individual rather than corporate votes.

Edward Chan King-sang, a barrister, joined the legal sector as the biggest winner after yielding 1,320 votes from the 6,000-odd eligible voters, either barristers or solicitors, in 2011.

A former Bar Association chairman, Chan notes that legal practitioners are generally liberal minded, and said those with a prominent social standing and more personal connections stood a higher chance of being elected onto the committee by their peers.

Lawyers are at the forefront of calls for political changes. But under the proposed system, Chan lamented that their role would be limited in facilitating a wider array of candidacies, as many other sectors are reserved for Beijing loyalists.

"It's certain the central authorities can still control at least half of all the committee members," Chan said. "An apple or an orange - that's all the citizens will be able to choose from [in 2017]."

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Football guru says sport sector is representative