A senior NPC official has urged Beijing loyalists to explore ways to amend Hong Kong's electoral methods for the 2012 elections in preparation for universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020. Qiao Xiaoyang, deputy secretary general of the National People's Congress, yesterday encouraged the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong to prepare themselves for the changes ahead. 'Let us explore how the 2012 electoral methods for the chief executive and Legislative Council can be made so that Hong Kong's constitutional development can step forward and progress in a gradual and orderly manner, and the universal suffrage timetable laid out by the NPC Standing Committee can be realised,' he told 171 DAB members at a party camp in Shenzhen. Mr Qiao was referring to a Standing Committee decision in December that Hong Kong might introduce universal suffrage for the chief executive and all legislators in 2017 and 2020, respectively. In a two-hour speech, he also explained issues related to implementing universal suffrage according to the Basic Law and the 'one country, two systems' principle. Speaking after the closed-door session, Mr Qiao said he hoped the DAB would continue to grow and strengthen. He refused to discuss its participation in September's Legco election. Party chairman Tam Yiu-chung said the most important message he had gleaned from the speech was that the DAB should 'seize the 12 years ahead to nurture talent and prepare ourselves for universal suffrage for chief executive and the Legislative Council'. He said Mr Qiao had encouraged the party to continue its community work. The official's trip from Beijing to Shenzhen followed a request from the party to attend the two-day event. Asked whether it meant Beijing had a high regard for the DAB's role in Hong Kong's constitutional reform, Mr Tam said the deputy secretary general had accepted the invitation because he was an 'old friend' of the party. In a separate session, the director of the Chief Executive's Office, Norman Chan Tak-lam, discussed with DAB members how to strengthen the co-operation between the government and the party. Two other speakers were Trade Development Council chairman Jack So Chak-kwong and RTHK talk-show host Robert Chow Yung.