It may not have achieved anything concrete, but at least the dinner reception hosted by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for pan-democrats and academics last night kicked off a dialogue on universal suffrage.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said some guests at the Government House dinner suggested setting up a body, similar to the Basic Law Consultative Committee of the mid-1980s, to canvass the public's views on political reform.
"I think the discussion tonight was very useful," he said.
Former Democratic Party lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong proposed forming an independent committee composed of people with public credibility and different political aspirations to take charge of the consultation.
"My proposal was echoed by most guests from the pro-establishment camp," Cheung said.
Civic Party vice-chairman Stephen Chan Ching-kiu said he and some fellow pan-democrats thought the consultation should start with key issues like the central government's power to appoint the chief executive and voters' right to nominate chief executive candidates, before discussing concrete proposals
Lau Nai-keung, a member of the Basic Law Committee, said Leung and his guests exchanged their views in a cosy atmosphere.
But Leung gave no timetable for political reform consultation.
Lau said: "There were different views on topics like procedures for nominating candidates for the 2017 chief executive election, but it's still a good start for dialogue between the two sides."
The reception was attended by more than 20 politicians, professionals and academics from both the pan-democratic and pro-Beijing camps.
Some pan-democrats pulled out at the last minute.
Executive Council member Bernard Chan said a single dinner reception could not be expected to produce a consensus on electoral reform.
"It might be too early to talk about a consensus," he said on an RTHK radio programme.
"But there must be compromises [from different stakeholders] in the end if there is to be an agreement. The least preferable outcome is if the political system makes no headway."
Lee Wing-tat, a former Democratic Party legislator who is now research director of moderate democratic group Hong Kong 2020, said his party had "too many representatives" and he had hoped that other pan-democratic groups could participate.