Hong Kong is not ready for universal suffrage by 2012, former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said yesterday. Mrs Ip, now chairwoman of the board of governors of the Savantas Policy Institute, said that, while she supported democracy in Hong Kong, she would not advocate setting a date by which universal suffrage should be achieved. 'Calling for [democracy by] a certain date is easy, you just need to go out on to the street and shout some slogans,' she said. 'Hong Kong needs to take the next step towards democracy soon. But one shouldn't cast [the date] so firmly in metal.' After she returned to Hong Kong in June from Stanford University, California, Mrs Ip had expressed cautious optimism in Hong Kong's ability to achieve universal suffrage in 2012, citing a greater political awakening in the city's elite and citizens' growing participation in politics. But, speaking on RTHK's Radio 2 programme Xi Chiu Jok Dung, she said that although Hong Kong met some general requirements for universal suffrage, it was still missing 'certain associated arrangements'. 'The current election [for the next chief executive] is already so lively that someone has announced their candidacy even before the 800 [Election Committee members that will choose the chief executive] were elected,' she said. 'In 2012, with no incumbent, the election would be even more intense.' Mrs Ip said she was interested in participating in the 2008 Legislative Council election through the geographic constituency system, but had not yet decided in which district to run. She triggered speculation last week when she was quoted in several newspaper interviews saying that she had heard about a potential heavyweight 'third candidate' for the chief executive election, in addition to incumbent Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Civic Party challenger Alan Leong Kah-kit. Yesterday, she said she had intended the comments to refer only to 'an objective possibility'. Mrs Ip told RTHK: 'I just said it off the top of my head, and they turned out making it into news. I didn't mean it that way'.