Talk at the dinner hosted by Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying last night dealt mostly with practical issues of electoral reform, such as the formation of the nominating committee and whether there should be a cap on the number of candidates in the 2017 chief executive race, the constitutional affairs minister revealed.
The Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said many of the guests were concerned about how the nomination committee would work and the number of candidates.
"The mainstream view is that we want to achieve universal suffrage for the chief executive election in 2017," Tam added.
Pan-democrat Bruce Liu Sing-lee, from the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, said one official told him that the consultation paper was ready and they were just waiting for Leung to call the shots.
But Tam flatly denied this, adding: "We will continue to listen and write our consultation paper."
Tam said the government had yet to decide whether to follow past practice and set up a team of three ministers to look at political reform - himself, Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
Some critics say Leung has pushed Lam into taking the lead on handling election reform because he is so unpopular. But two government sources noted that previous chief secretaries, including Rafael Hui Si-yan and Henry Tang Ying-yen, handled constitutional reform and lobbied lawmakers for their support.
A Chinese University poll last month rated Leung's popularity at 44.8 per cent, while Lam was one of his most popular ministers, scoring 60.7 per cent.
Former civil service secretary Joseph Wong Wing-ping said that regardless of her popularity, Lam would be the appropriate choice to lead the team with Yuen and Tam.
"The chief executive has a constitutional role, such as reporting to Beijing on the result of the consultation, so he will take part eventually," Wong said, adding reform did not depend on officials' popularity. Yuen and more than 20 media representatives, pan-democrats and academics were at last night's dinner, part of the government's listening process.
Guests included Democratic Party vice-chairman Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong; Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu; Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre chairman Donald Li Kwok-tung; and Bruce Lui Ping-kuen, a visiting lecturer at Baptist University.