The central government will only make a decision on the pace of democratic reform after it receives a report from the Hong Kong government based on the results of public consultation, a mainland official in the city said yesterday. Li Gang , deputy director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, called on the public to express their views during the consultation exercise, due to end on October 10. 'The earlier a consensus is reached, the earlier universal suffrage can be achieved,' he said. Mr Li's comments came amid mounting speculation that Beijing has already ruled out universal suffrage in 2012 after loyalists, such as executive councillor Cheng Yiu-tong, said it was 'impossible'. Another senior liaison official earlier praised Hong Kong people for their 'rational' attitude towards the possibility of universal suffrage at a date after 2012. But Mr Li stressed Beijing had not formed a view. He called on everyone to consider the issue calmly and carry out a 'rational discussion' to reach a consensus on democratic development. Mr Li said universal suffrage would be achieved because it was stated in the Basic Law, but that Hong Kong's pace of democratisation should be in line with the city's 'actual situation' and the principle of 'gradual and orderly progress'. In an apparent attempt to dilute the Beijing loyalists' recent remarks on the impossibility of universal suffrage in 2012, Basic Law Committee member Lau Nai-keung said he believed no decision had been made. He said there was no pressing need for Beijing to interpret the Basic Law to resolve the issue. 'It hasn't come to the stage for them to consider this issue. Perhaps the report by the chief executive will say there's no need for Hong Kong to change its electoral system ... and there's no mainstream view being formed. In such a scenario there's no need for them [Beijing] to do anything,' Mr Lau told RTHK. Political scientist Ma Ngok, of Chinese University, suggested that Beijing was not prepared to spell out the official stance before the consultation was completed but it had given hints through loyalists. A clear statement now would damage Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's credibility over the consultation process, Professor Ma said. Basic Law Committee member Albert Chen Hung-yee said universal suffrage in 2012 was totally acceptable from a legal perspective and was therefore a simple political decision.