Contrary to the popular assumption, using civil nomination for selecting candidates has been in place in mainland China, at least on paper.
Although under a different name (voters’ nomination), civil nomination has been deemed a lawful democratic procedure in electing National People’s Congress deputies at the regional level.
What is even more surprising is the low threshold for nominating candidates. According to a 2010 amendment to the second clause of article 29 of the election law on NPC deputies, anyone with the support of just 10 registered eligible voters can stand to run. (The original version in simplified Chinese can be viewed at http://www.gov.cn/flfg/2010-03/14/content_1555450.htm)
In this sense, civil nomination, with a sound legal basis, already exists on the mainland and students must use this point to refute the logic of the NPC’s conservative ruling on future chief executive elections.
Most likely, government officials and Beijing loyalists will argue that Hong Kong is different under the “one country, two systems” principle and one cannot make a direct comparison to the election laws and methods on the mainland.
Nevertheless, I believe that most people will agree that the spirit behind the principle is that Hong Kong can implement a more liberal system compared with that on the mainland.
Laying down a higher threshold –- no one can run for chief executive unless he has secured support from no less than half of the nomination committee as the only way endorsed by the NPC ruling –- can be a contravention of the liberal and modest policy stance promised by the central authorities in the 1980s.
Others may say the mainland’s law is only applicable to the election of NPC deputies but not to the selection of the head of a regional government like Hong Kong’s chief executive or a mayor or a governor on the mainland.
But that is not the case either.
In 2004, the NPC amended the law concerning the election of local government heads, which stipulates that candidates running for the head of a provincial government need support from no less than 30 NPC deputies in the form of signed recommendation letters. The threshold for the election of a mayor is lower: signatures of just 20 NPC deputies.
In this sense, if the Hong Kong SAR is considered of the same rank as a mainland province, then anyone can stand to run for chief executive after securing support from a certain fixed number of the territory’s lawmakers.
Needless to say, everyone knows too well that the basic situation on the mainland is that having a sound legal framework is one thing and implementation to the letter is another.
Yet the fact that there exists a de facto civil nomination on the mainland offers a firm ground for student representatives to reason with the government that Hong Kong people, who are generally more civilized and well-educated, deserve a similar arrangement.
This commentary appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal’s Oct. 9 issue. Translation by Frank Chen.
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