Thursday, January 2, 2014, 07:31
'Civil nomination' is unrealistic
By Chan Chi-ho

The opposition camp insists the 2017 Chief Executive Election by universal suffrage must include "civil nomination" and it will reject the government's constitutional reform plan if it does not include this. It has been more than 20 years since the National People's Congress (NPC) passed the Basic Law of HKSAR. Therefore, the average Hong Kong resident may wonder why did the opposition wait until the last minute to start clamoring about "civil nomination"?

This demand obviously violates Article 45 of the Basic Law and will usurp the Nominating Committee. Unless the Basic Law is amended or given an official explanation of the legislative intent of Article 45 by the NPC Standing Committee regarding institutional nomination to justify "citizen nomination", there is no way the NPCSC will authorize such an impromptu change to the CE selection method.

The opposition politicians are not stupid, but why are they pushing for an unconstitutional and politically unworkable plan? It is everybody's guess as to the true intent of the opposition camp, but one thing is certain: the opposition's current stand will only result in the blocking of the constitutional reform plan in the Legislative Council (LegCo). That means people's wish for the next milestone in Hong Kong's democratic development will be dashed. This is the truth about "civil nomination".

Hong Kong is a modern society under the rule of law. The Basic Law is Hong Kong's constitutional law and its Article 45 provides the jurisprudential basis for the CE election by universal suffrage. It is a matter, of course, for the central government and SAR government to conduct Hong Kong's constitutional development according to the Basic Law. This was agreed by the central authorities and Hong Kong society all along. By insisting on the unconstitutional "civil nomination", the opposition is in fact threatening Hong Kong residents as well as the central government with all or nothing if they do not abandon consensus.

Is that reasonable, or fair for that matter? Are we supposed to believe the central government and SAR government are wrong to faithfully follow Article 45 of the Basic Law and stick to the broadly representative Nominating Committee? Isn't it obvious the opposition has ignored Hong Kong's constitutional law by insisting on abandoning the Nominating Committee? If the opposition camp believes it can strike down the constitutional reform plan because it controls more than one-third of the LegCo votes and is determined to bet on the central authorities and SAR government's willingness to compromise, I am afraid the episode will end with Hong Kong residents' dream of universal suffrage being shattered and the society further torn apart.

As a matter of fact, whether "civil nomination" is suitable for Hong Kong has never been scientifically proven. There is nothing to convince the public that "civil nomination" is more broadly representative than the Nominating Committee is, allows better balanced participation than the latter does and serves the interests of all parties concerned equally.

Obtaining the signatures of 100,000 legitimate voters for civil nomination requires a great deal of manpower and resources. It would be much easier and cost a lot less to win the endorsement of 1,200 Nominating Committee members. With the majority of voters in Hong Kong having no affinity to one political party or another, most local parties have only a few hundred to 1,000 or so members and very few boast membership of 10,000 or more. Does this reality bode well for "civil nomination"; is "civil nomination" suitable for Hong Kong? All these are real questions, although "civil nomination" remains merely a slogan at best.

It would be too childish to reject constitutional reform simply for a delusional slogan. And I must reiterate, "civil nomination" is undoubtedly unconstitutional under the existing statutory framework in Hong Kong, not to mention that there is no political consensus or time to go through the required legislative process for writing "civil nomination" into the Basic Law by 2017.

The author is vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Young Commentators' Association.