How should the Chief Executive be elected, to come closest to the pan-democrats’ aspirations, and yet be acceptable to Beijing? 

Civic nomination, i.e. letting candidates for Chief Executive be nominated by one person, one vote, is what the pan-democrats demand, but is unacceptable to Beijing.  Under “one country, two systems”, the internal governance of Hong Kong is like the running of a large ship, which the owner, Beijing, stays out of, except for using a mechanism in the election of the captain, to try to prevent the ship from ever being hijacked.  Civic nominaation entails the bypassing of that mechanism.  If Hong Kong were just another Chinese city electing its mayor, Beijing would more readily accede.  In that case, Hong Kong would be like just a cabin in a ship which is run by Beijing herself. 

That mechanism which Beijing relies on is the Nominating Committee.  It is based on functional constituencies, an important checks-and-balances mechanism.  Many democracies deploy checks-and-balances mechanisms not based on one person, one vote; one exampleis is the UK’s non-elected House of Lords.

As a framework, the decision of 31/8/2014 by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress allows for significant liberalizations.  For instance, the following changes could flow from features which Beijing’s emissary Li Fei, speaking on 1/9/2014, referred to as open for discussion.  Nomination could be in two rounds.  The first round requires endorsements by as few as 5% of Nominating Committee members.  Voting in the second round is presumably by secret ballot.  When casting their votes, Committee members need to consider that, to win the election, their candidate would have to command the support of the most voters.  They also need to consider, as Li Fei said, the consequences if none of the candidates receives broad enough support from society.

For stronger persuasion on the Nominating Committee to admit a wider range of candidates, one pan-democratic proposal was to recognize blank votes as valid.  If the candidate line-up appears to unreasonably exclude popular aspirants, an angered public might cast so many blank votes that no candidate gets enough votes to win.  According to Li Fei, apart from stipulating one person, one vote, the NPCSC decision has not imposed any framework on the specific mode and vote-counting method of the election after candidates are nominated; of those features there can be full discussion.

Correspondingly, to directly allay Beijing’s paramount concern, it might be clearly stipulated that all candidates and Chief Executives elect have to affirm their upholding of the “one country” national wholeness, solidarity and security interests, including full implementation of the Basic Law.  At the same time, the forthcoming legislation under Basic Law Article 23 should ensure that there are adequate safeguards for personal freedoms. 

For more, see “Post-Occupy political and social solutions”.

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