Chief Secretary for Administration Henry Tang Ying-yen says the government will consider scrapping appointed district councillors if sufficient opposition lawmakers promise to support the 2012 political reform package.
The package needs the support of at least 40 legislators to be approved, but as it stands, the government can only count on 37 independent and pro- establishment lawmakers, including president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing of Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who normally abstains.
Tang told RTHK yesterday that he "will consider" scrapping appointed district councillors if enough opposition lawmakers support the 2012 reform package.
Should the pan-democrats remain opposed to the package, he said, it would not be justified for the government to deny appointed councillors the opportunity to continue serving the public.
Pan-democrat and health services sector lawmaker Joseph Lee Kok-long said Tang's remarks suggested there is room for negotiation.
He said he and other Alliance for Universal Suffrage members will continue to seek more democratic reforms.
Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee said he will not help the government canvass for swing votes.
But he said if the government pledges to scrap appointed councillors he will not oppose the package.
Democratic Party legislator Lee Wing-tat said if the package does not contain a promise to scrap functional constituencies in 2020, his party will vote against it.
Civic Party lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said the government should not use the scrapping of appointed seats as a bargaining chip for the support of pan-democrats.
Neighborhood and Worker's Service Center legislator Leung Yiu-chung said Tang should have made such a promise during Wednesday's Legco meeting instead of waiting a day. He said there is no point in threatening pan-democrats to seek a compromise.
Fung Wai-wah, convener of the Alliance for Universal Suffrage, said members will hold a rally in a community hall on April 25 and stage a protest on a date to be fixed.