The central government is said to be prepared to "accept reality" and allow someone popular - albeit disliked by Beijing - to run for the 2017 chief executive election.
That was the message from an "an authoritative official" quoted by Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing yesterday.
Tsang also dismissed as "not authoritative" comments by Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun, who said on Wednesday that Beijing had already "decided" a pan-democrat was "unlikely" to qualify as a candidate.
Speaking on Commercial Radio, Tsang said: "I have told Beijing officials that if you forcefully screen out a popular person because you think he's not patriotic, how could Hongkongers [accept] that?"
Tsang - who has warned that failure to achieve universal suffrage in 2017 would be the "worst scenario" for all sides - has been encouraging pan-democrats to join a trip to Shanghai next month for talks with officials on political reform.
"I can tell you, without mentioning who he is, that a central government official replied 'We will accept this reality' - when it was mentioned that if there was a person very welcomed by Hongkongers - you have to let him run."
Tsang said the pan-democrats should worry more about whether they could field a capable candidate.
After the interview, Tsang said he believed the official's stance also indicated Beijing would accept an unpatriotic candidate if endorsed by the committee.
Tien stood by his observation, while Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok and Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah also questioned whether the official who spoke to Tsang reflected mainstream views within the central government.
Tong said he would not be optimistic about the prospects of political reform based on "a personal opinion".
During the interview, Tsang also reiterated that the central and local governments might have to pay a heavy political price if they pushed though an unpopular electoral reform package, such as one that barred "confrontational" pan-democrats from running.
The government must win a two-thirds majority in the 70-member Legco to secure passage of any reform package, which means it needs to win over some pan-democrats.
"If society cannot accept that package, and you can only win a few votes [from the pan-democratic camp] … it will be, undoubtedly, suicidal for those [democrats to support the government]," Tsang warned.