The government is considering offering a rethink of the nominating system for the 2022 chief executive election in an attempt to win over pan-democrats who have vowed to vote down the government’s proposal for the 2017 poll.

A government source revealed last night that several possible amendments could be made the second time the city chooses its leader by universal suffrage. They could include raising the maximum number of candidates from three to four; increasing the number of members of the committee that nominates candidates from 1,200; and adding representatives of new sectors, such as youth, to that body.

The changes, which would veer from the strict framework Beijing set down last year “could be explored”, the source said.

The government needs a two-thirds majority in the Legislative Council for its reform to pass. Pan-democrats, of whom at least five would have to vote in favour for the reforms to pass, have pledged to oppose any package which would fail to provide a genuine choice of candidates.

Beijing’s framework was also questioned yesterday by a new lawyers’ group, which said the ruling constituted only “pre-emptive guidance” and did not have the force of law.

The Progressive Lawyers Group has submitted its views on reform to the government’s second consultation on 2017.

The group’s co-convenor is solicitor Kevin Yam Kin-fung, who made headlines last year by initiating a no-confidence vote that forced out Law Society president Ambrose Lam San-keung.

“We do not mean to be a rival to the Law Society or the Bar Association. I remain a member of the former,” Yam, who quit the society’s constitutional affairs committee last week, said yesterday. “We just want to provide another channel for young lawyers to express their views.”

The group comprises about 50 solicitors, barristers and law students. The other two conveners are solicitor Jonathan Man Ho-ching and barrister Wilson Leung Wan-shun. Yam noted the society had yet to state its position on electoral criteria that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee laid down in August regarding the 2017 poll.

The new group argues the decision comprises two parts.

The first part was the committee’s “determination” that the chief executive was to be elected by 2017 by universal suffrage. This, the group said, carried constitutional force because both the Basic Law and the committee’s 2004 interpretation of the mini-constitution said it was up to the committee to “make a determination” whether “there is a need” to amend electoral methods.

But the second part, the detailed framework, was merely “pre-emptive guidance” to the Hong Kong government and did not have to be followed, they said.

Article was originally published in South China Morning Post on 28 January 2015

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