Pan-democrats want to meet Beijing officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs in a bid to break the deadlock on political reform before the National People's Congress Standing Committee makes a ruling next month.
The lawmakers issued their plea yesterday during a 90-minute meeting with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and constitutional affairs chief Raymond Tam Chi-yuen.
While Lam said she would try her best to convey their appeal to the central government, she refused to make any promises because there was not much time left before the committee meets.
A key issue will be whether the public is allowed to nominate candidates for chief executive in 2017. The pan-democratic camp appears to be softening its line on the issue to set up the meeting and forge consensus.
NPC chairman Zhang Dejiang , the top man in charge of Hong Kong affairs, is the official the pan-democrats most want to meet. Lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee hoped they could hold more than one meeting.
Zhang recently spent three days in Shenzhen, where he met Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, other senior officials and pro-establishment parties. Some pan-democrats said Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya would also be acceptable.
But they would not be satisfied with meeting Zhang Xiaoming , who heads the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong. Accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung said: "Zhang Dejiang has met with Beijing-loyalists for three days. It would be undesirable if he refuses to meet us, who represent at least half of the registered voters in Hong Kong."
Leung added that Zhang, the No3 in the Politburo Standing Committee, should not "selectively choose the opinions he wants to listen to".
A government source said the pan-democratic lawmakers were divided over the venue for such a meeting.
"Some wanted the meeting to be held in Hong Kong, while others favoured meetings on the mainland," the source said.
"Some want all pan-democrats to meet Beijing officials while others preferred meetings between small groups and mainland officials.
"The chief secretary noted the difficulties … but will try her best to arrange the meetings."
A person familiar with the situation believed a meeting on the mainland was more likely.
"If the meeting is held in Hong Kong, the discussion would be overshadowed by protests outside the venue," the person said.
It is understood Lam rejected a pan-democrat call to submit a supplementary form with the government's reform report to Beijing to convey their demand for making Legco more democratic in 2016.
In his report to the Standing Committee, Leung said the public "generally agreed" that the chief executive had to be a person who "loves the country and loves Hong Kong". It concluded that "mainstream opinion" holds that only a nominating committee should have the power to put forward chief executive candidates.