Opening up the Nominating Committee (NC) for the Chief Executive (CE) election in 2017 to public participation and making it more democratic is a key reform that Hong Kong should focus on, says a Group of 13 (G-13) scholars. Efforts in this direction will not only meet the constitutional and legal requirements on Hong Kong’s political reform, but also address the strong demand for public participation in the nomination of CE candidates.
Democratizing the NC is also a way to strike a compromise amongst different and polarizing political demands, and help to create an opportunity for Hong Kong’s electoral reform to get through the “Five Step Process”, particularly in securing support from both the Legislative Council and from Beijing, thus making universal suffrage in the election of Hong Kong’s CE in 2017 a reality.
“The selection of the Chief Executive in 2017 through universal suffrage and the continuing development of our political system are critical, otherwise Hong Kong will become increasingly impossible to govern. Failure to make progress will punish everyone – the establishment, the pan-democrats, all political parties, the people, Hong Kong itself, and even the long-term interests of our country”, says Prof Richard Wong, a member of the G-13 Scholars.
The G-13 Scholars’ latest proposals ask for doubling the size of the existing Election Committee from 1,200 members to form a new NC of 2,400 members, with all the new members elected directly by registered voters in Hong Kong. These 1,200 new members will have to first seek endorsement from the sectoral voters of the existing four sectors, and second to get 1,200 votes from registered voters in Hong Kong. Endorsement by 50 sectoral voters is required for candidates in the First, Second and Third sectors, while endorsement by 5 sectoral voters is required in the Fourth sector.
There are now close to 250,000 sectoral voters in the four sectors of the Election Committee. The purpose of asking the new, popularly-elected members of the NC to seek endorsement from existing sectoral voters is to make the new NC similar in structure to the old Election Committee. This is one of the requirements for Hong Kong’s electoral reform set down by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), in line with the principle of gradual progress.
In the Fourth Sector of the existing Election Committee, the number of sectoral voters is relatively small as they include only existing Legislative Council members, existing deputies to the NPC and the Chinese People Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC), and Heung Yee Kuk and District Council members. The G-13 proposes that new sectoral voters be added, comprising all retired Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries and directorate civil servants, retired members of the Executive Council and the Legislative Council, retired deputies to the NPC and CPPCC, and people on the honours list since 1997, and Unofficial Justices of Peace.
“It should be noted that we are proposing to add these new members into the list of sectoral voters in the Fourth Sector only, not as NC members. The key idea of this proposal is that these people have contributed to Hong Kong in many ways in the past, and they should be given a role to play in endorsing candidates who want to bid for seats in the Fourth Sector of the NC”, say Ms Lau Pui-king, another G-13 member.
Another important and contentious debate in Hong Kong’s current political reform is how the NC would put forward CE candidates for the public to vote. The G-13 proposes that any contender could be considered for candidacy if he/she could get nominated by 10% of the NC members, and will become a potential candidate if he/she gets 20% of the votes. These percentages are based on the view that there should be 2 to 4 candidates for the CE election, a number arrived at after extensive consultations by the government.
A new concept introduced by G-13 is that all contenders for candidacy who get pass the 20% votes threshold will go into a “list”. The NC will then vote on the “list” so that all candidates on the “list” will become CE candidates if the “list” is passed by majority vote of the NC.
“The idea of a ‘list’ comes from our observation that Art 45 of the Basic Law requires the NC to nominate CE candidates ‘in accordance with democratic procedures’”, explains Prof Sung Yun-wing, another G-13 scholar. “Democratic procedures normally require majority vote. But if the NC is to vote on each and every candidate, then it is likely that contenders who represent minority interests will have very little chance of becoming a CE candidate. The use of a ‘list’ could allow all contenders with 20% NC votes to get majority support from the NC. This is more in line with Hong Kong’s political reality.”
If the “list” is not approved by the NC, then the selection process is repeated. If necessary, new rules could be introduced that would encourage competing political forces to cooperate or increase their costs of refusing to compromise, thus helping to produce a “list” that has a higher chance of being approved. For example, the 20% and 50% thresholds could be raised gradually.
“Any scheme that screens candidates unreasonably will have very little chance to get through the ‘Five Step Process’. Our design of how the NC is constituted and how the NC nominates CE candidates is fully compliant of all legal requirements, and should make it acceptable as a compromise between the political left and the political right. Our proposal should also be looked at as another important step forward in Hong Kong’s continuing democratization process”, added Prof Liu Pak-wai, another G-13 scholar.
Political reform in Hong Kong is now moving into the second step of the “Five Step Process”. The Standing Committee of the NPC (NPCSC) is expected to decide in late-August whether to accept the recommendation by the CE on whether the rules for the appointment of the CE and of the Legislative Council should be amended. It is unclear at this stage whether the NPCSC would set guidelines for such amendments and what these guidelines may be.
“Hong Kong needs more time and space for different political forces to exchange views and reach consensus in the political reform debate. We hope that the NPCSC would allow more flexibility in its upcoming decision so that Hong Kong could better implement the NPCSC decision that Hong Kong could elect its CE through universal suffrage in 2017”, says Prof Richard Wong.
Notes to Editors:
The G-13 Scholars are Prof FAN Yiu-kwan, Prof HO Lok-sang, Mr HUANG Yin, Hanson, Dr KWAN Pun-fong, Vincent, Mr KWOK Kwok-chuen, Ms LAU Pui-king, Dr LAW Cheung-kwok, Prof LIU Pak-wai, Prof LUI Ting-ming, Francis, Dr LUK Michael, Prof SUNG Yun-wing, Prof WONG Yue-chim, Richard and Prof YEUNG Yue-man.
The G-13 Proposal website: http://2017cenom.blogspot.hk/