A broadly rep­re­sen­ta­tive Nom­i­nat­ing Com­mit­tee

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK COMMENT - SONG SIO- CHONG The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at the Hong Kong and Ma­cao Ba­sic Law Center of the Shen­zhen Univer­sity.

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.

Song Sio-chong

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