A broadly representative Nominating Committee
The most persistent misunderstanding about the Nominating Committee (NC) of Chief Executive (CE) candidates is whether it should be broadly representative or have a larger electoral base. Indeed, Article 45 of the Basic Law adopts the former idea rather than the latter. Most people regard them as the same.
For example, in the recently published consultation document “Method for selecting the Chief Executive in 2017 and for Forming the Legislative Council in 2016”, the names of the electoral base making up the NC is used instead of stating that it should be broadly representative. Section 3.15 of the document states that, “If it is considered that the electoral base of the existing Election Committee (EC) should be further enlarged, we may consider how to enlarge the electoral base of the NC.” I do not blame the present administration for this as it was inherited from “Green Paper on Constitutional Development” published in July 2007 by the last government.
Because of this misnomer, many scholars and political parties in the region have wrongly concluded the electoral base of the present EC is merely 220,000, and so could be enlarged to 500,000 or 1 million to make it broadly representative.
Let me explain why their assumption is incorrect. From Annex IV of the consultation document, there are four sectors in the EC. The first refers to industrial, commercial and financial sectors; the second sector to the professions; the third sector to labor, social services, religious and other sectors; and the fourth to political sectors which include members of the LegCo, representatives of members of the district council, representatives of the Heung Yee Kuk, Hong Kong deputies to the NPC, and representatives of the CPPCC.
The so-called 220,000 electoral base was roughly calculated for the first and second sectors without taking account of those from the third and fourth sectors. Among 1,200 members of the EC, there were 60 members from religious sub-sectors. They were nominated evenly by six religious bodies, namely Catholics in Hong Kong, Chinese Muslim Cultural and Fraternal Association, Hong Kong Christian Council, The Hong Kong Taoist Association, the Confucian Academy, and the Hong Kong Buddhist Association. Despite the fact that they represent more than 1 million religious believers in Hong Kong, they were nominated by corresponding religious bodies instead of directly by believers themselves. Notwithstanding, they represent more than 1 million believers. But their electoral base is assumed to be zero.
The 70 members of the LegCo, which have 35 members each from geographical and functional constituencies, are another example. The electoral base for the constituencies is approximately 3.5 million. All the LegCo members are automatically members of the EC, but again there is, surprisingly, a zero electoral base.
Another example is 117 members of the EC from District Council sub-sector chosen by elected members of the District Council. Regardless, all 412 elected members of District Council are elected directly by 3.5 million voters and their electoral base is counted as 412 only.
This shows that criticism of narrow electoral base for the EC is the result of careless arithmetic or ulterior motives, or both. Considering that most sectors of functional constituencies of the LegCo overlap with larger parts of the EC, it is not difficult to deduce that if the electoral base is enlarged it will automatically affect functional constituencies of the LegCo. Such an enlargement of the functional constituencies of the LegCo implies that universal suffrage for the LegCo could be achieved even earlier. It should come into effect after universal suffrage of the CE, and not before.
The concept of broad representation and of the electoral base differs significantly. The later refers to individual voters; it should be enlarged in the case of universal suffrage when necessary. While the former comprises not only the electoral base, it also includes all kinds of political, economical, social and cultural sectors in Hong Kong. As opposed to individual voters for the later, the former may involve both voters and non-voters who have to be represented, and naturalized and non-naturalized residents alike. The former base may be larger and wider than the latter, but they are not exactly the same.
I do not have anything against modifying the size and composition of the EC. Life always changes and so does society. Some occupations and undertakings evolve or disappear, while some develop and appear.
To nominate a better and stronger CE, we should pay more attention to broader representation of the electoral base as well as to election by universal suffrage. They cannot be merged or treated the same way. If there are a higher number of voters in the CE election then I believe compulsory registration and voting should be introduced in 2017. Let the silent majority have the final say.