Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says the outlook for electing the chief executive by universal suffrage in 2017 is "not very bright" and the situation will reach an "impasse" if democracy lobbyists refuse to accept that any electoral reform must comply with the Basic Law.
A nominating committee modelled on the framework of the broadly representative four-sector Election Committee now in place will "stand a better chance of being accepted" in both the legal and political context, Lam says.
"In light of the prevailing situation, the outlook for the successful implementation of universal suffrage for the chief executive election is not very bright, though the prospect is not yet completely bleak," she writes in an article on today's opinion page of the South China Morning Post.
Lam notes that views are rather polarised, with many "lacking supporting arguments" or "giving little consideration" to the principles and provisions relating to the political structure as stipulated in the Basic Law.
"At this juncture of the consultation, we should have practical discussions on the provisions of the Basic Law, instead of wasting time and effort in making proposals over which a consensus is hard to achieve," she writes in reference to reaching the halfway point of the government's five-month public consultation.
As for the heated debate on nomination procedures, Lam says any proposal "bypassing" or "undermining" the nomination power of the nominating committee would not be acceptable in the realm of law.
She adds: "Any proposal that is legally controversial is unlikely to be passed by a two-thirds majority in [the Legislative Council] and obtain the consent of the chief executive and the approval of the [National People's Congress] Standing Committee."
Lam urges all sectors of the community to "initiate more constructive discussions" and not let the opportunity of achieving universal suffrage slip away.
Meanwhile, Jaime Sze Wine-him, of the Beijing-loyalist Y. Elites Association, urged pan-democrats to let go of partisanship and focus on nurturing capable people.
"Despite their pan-democratic backgrounds, [Secretary for Transport and Housing] Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung and [Democratic Party member] Dr Law Chi-kwong are highly regarded in the pro-establishment camp," Sze said.