The central government has already "decided on many details" of how to elect the chief executive under "one man, one vote" in 2017, including that a pan-democrat is "unlikely" to qualify as a candidate.
That's according to James Tien Pei-chun, leader of the pro-business Liberal Party, who told a radio phone-in show yesterday that he believed hopefuls for the top job could be required to secure at least half of the nominating committee's support in order to be put forward as a candidate.
Tien said Beijing "could not accept" former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang's proposal to allow hopefuls to become official candidates if they secure support from a tenth of committee members.
The Liberal Party leader suggested that Beijing could try to win over some pan-democrats - who would almost certainly oppose a 50 per cent support threshold - by promising to lower the nomination requirement for the 2022 election.
"Is it possible that [in 2017] we choose our chief executive by a popular vote - albeit … from a choice of three pro-establishment figures … but for the next election [in 2022], can we lower the threshold to about 500 to 600 nominations?" Tien asked. "If such a message can be sent out, I think there is still some chance we can get four to five votes," he added, referring to the number of pan-democrats who would need to vote in support of a reform proposal in order for it to be passed by the Legislative Council.
The government must win a two-thirds majority in the 70-member Legco to secure passage of any reform package.
Tien said he based his understanding that "many details about the political reform have been decided" on a speech delivered by Ambrose Lau Hon-chuen, a member of the standing committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the only Hongkonger chosen to give a speech at the annual session of the nation's advisory body in Beijing this month. Lau's speech focused on the need for electoral reform to strictly adhere to the Basic Law.
However, pro-government lawmaker Ip Kwok-him said he did not believe that Beijing had made any such decisions.
Tien's comments came as 15 legislators attended the last of four recent breakfast meetings with liaison officers and local officials.
Dr Liu Xinkui of the liaison office's legal affairs department said "good conversations" had taken place but refused to elaborate to reporters.
Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan said Liu had been advised by "some in the pro-Beijing camp" that universal suffrage should only be adopted after the city passed a controversial national security bill.
Pro-government lawmaker Christopher Chung Shu-kun later admitted mentioning national security legislation at the meeting. He had said that after the city enacted the national security law, there would be no reason why Beijing should impose restrictions on the city's chief executive poll.