Microcosmic representation: Hong Kong's election committee

Aaron TAM
In 2014, Beijing agreed to allow Hong Kong residents to choose the next chief executive, but said candidates must be vetted by a group based on the current pro-China election committee

Billionaire tycoons, an Olympic cyclist and even an operatic tenor are all part of the select band who will choose Hong Kong's next leader Sunday.

Representing sectors from sport and the arts to real estate and agriculture, the city's election committee comprises 1,194 members from a variety of special interest groups.

However, with only around a quarter from the pro-democracy camp, it is heavily weighted towards Beijing and is branded unrepresentative by many campaigners.

Elected committee members are chosen by 246,440 voters from their sectors.

That amounts to just 0.03 percent of the semi-autonomous city's 3.8 million-strong electorate.

Hong Kong's 70 lawmakers also automatically get a place, as do the city's 36 delegates to Beijing's National People's Congress and its 51 members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Tycoon Li Ka-shing has a vote as part of the pro-China real estate segment.

Other committee members include former Olympic cyclist Wong Kam-po who represents the sports sector.

Tenor Warren Mok chimes in for arts and culture, as does actor Eric Tsang, best-known as a triad boss in cult Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs.

- Unfair balance -

Although a range of groups are represented, some hold much greater sway than others.

The pro-democracy-leaning education sector has a total of 30 members on the committee, chosen by over 80,000 voters.

In contrast, the pro-China agriculture and fisheries group boasts 60 committee members for just 154 registered voters.

Corporations, including foreign firms, are also able to vote for their sector representatives.

Members of the election committee must be permanent residents of the city -- foreign nationals can gain that status after living in Hong Kong for seven years.

- Falling short -

Under the British, who colonised Hong Kong from 1841, the city was led by a governor directly appointed by the UK.

The first vote for leader came in 1996, ahead of the handover of Hong Kong back to China by Britain a year later.

Since then, the election committee has expanded from 400 members to up to 1,200 members.

But critics say it still falls well short of the vision laid out in Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

That stipulates the city should work towards universal suffrage, with leadership nominees chosen by a "broadly representative" committee before going to a public vote.

In 2014, Beijing agreed to allow residents to choose the next chief executive, but said candidates must be vetted by a group based on the current pro-China election committee.

That proposal sparked mass protests calling for fully free leadership elections.

The unpopular Beijing-backed reform plan was rejected in parliament by pro-democracy lawmakers in 2015.

Since then, the debate on political change has stalled, with frustrations among some young activists leading to calls for a complete split from China.