Pan-democrats are facing a catch-22 as they come under pressure to sign up for a trip to Shanghai to meet Beijing officials before the officials have said whether they will meet a key condition the lawmakers have set for their attendance.
Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said yesterday that although the democrats had yet to secure an exclusive meeting with the officials, time was running out to confirm if they would join the trip.
"We have not received a definite reply from the central government [on the separate meeting]," Tsang said. "But I cannot see that it is not going to happen."
That did not satisfy the 20 pan-democrats who have yet to decide whether they will go.
Speaking for them, Frederick Fung Kin-kee said the lack of a clear response to their demand and absence of a detailed schedule had held back their decision.
"The ball is in the central government's court," said Fung, of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood.
Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit did not see the urgency. "One day is too long in politics … there is still time left," he said.
But Tsang said the Legco secretariat had to arrange lodgings and liaise with the Shanghai government for the visit on April 12 and 13, so "lawmakers have to make their decisions in time". He did not set a specific deadline.
One of three conditions the pan-democrats set for their attendance - that the officials they meet must all be concerned with the reform process - has been met.
But even if they secure a separate meeting, a third demand - that the officials discuss proposals for nominating chief executive candidates in 2017, including the right for voters to put forward candidates - remains a potential stumbling block.
Tsang's remarks came after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying gave details of the three-day trip but without a fixed schedule.
The trip includes a half-day meeting with the State Council's Hong Kong and Macao Office director Wang Guangya , chairman of the Basic Law Committee Li Fei and central government liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming .
"I hope there will be a detailed schedule before the trip starts," Tsang said.