Hong Kong's No 2 official has admitted Beijing's white paper on the city's affairs will make it harder for a political reform package to pass the Legislative Council.
And Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor predicted a "great battle for public opinion" when the government brought forward its proposal for the 2017 chief executive election, adding that a high level of public support might pressure pan-democrats into supporting the plan.
The Hong Kong government has expressed support for the white paper, which angered pan-democrats for its claim Beijing had "comprehensive jurisdiction" over the city.
Her comments came ahead of Occupy Central's public vote on models for political reform, which runs today until June 29. Occupy, which plans to block streets in Central if the government fails to come up with an acceptable reform plan, says it is looking into setting up mobile polling stations and turning district councillors' offices into voting centres after cyberattacks paralysed the poll website.
Lam told an audience of University of Hong Kong alumni that the government was aware that it needed to win over at least five pan-democrats to secure a two-thirds majority in the Legislative Council for its reform plan.
But the white paper had caused "moderate pan-democrats' [power] to shrink".
"Therefore, I'm not too optimistic about [winning-over pan-democrats], and the strategy can only be to face the masses," Lam said. "It will be a big battle for public opinion, because if 60 or 70 per cent of the residents are in favour of [a proposal], there will be some pressure on pan-democrats too."
Citing polls showing that majority support for a one-man, one-vote election in 2017 even if it left pan-democrats unable to run, Lam added: "I think our residents are pragmatic."
Lam refused to answer questions from activists about whether she would heed the results of Occupy's "referendum".
Occupy organisers and other democracy supporters, including former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, yesterday urged people to join the poll, which will decide which of three reform models the group will endorse. Organisers said that in addition to 15 physical stations planned for Sunday, an additional 10 would be opened on June 29.
But key Occupy organiser Dr Chan Kin-man said yesterday: "Many citizens have told us that the polling stations we plan to install are still not enough. So we are now studying the possibility of setting up extra stations."
Vans and the offices of pan-democratic district councillors were being considered.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the central government had little knowledge of the cyberattacks and opposed hacking.