China says candidates for Hong Kong's chief executive election in 2017 must be vetted by a committee, reiterating the ground rules as the city plans to start public consultation on universal suffrage.
The nomination procedure allows for input from different parts of society and will ensure the elected leader is acceptable to all, Li Fei, deputy secretary-general of China's National People's Congress Standing Committee, told lawmakers and officials in Hong Kong at the weekend.
Mr Li's comments underline China's desire to retain control of the 2017 election process as opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong call for the introduction of full-fledged democracy. Civic groups have threatened to protest in the city's financial district in July should chief executive Leung Chun-ying not speed up political reforms.
"The chief executive's post must be filled by a patriot," Mr Li said. "Someone who opposes the central government cannot become chief executive."
Mr Leung is the last leader picked by a group of billionaires, professionals and lawmakers as China has pledged to allow an election in four years. Public consultation on the electoral process will start next month, chief secretary Carrie Lam has said.
Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong's de-facto constitution, candidates must be nominated by a committee. Universal suffrage in the city will have "Hong Kong characteristics", Zhang Xiaoming, the Chinese government's representative in the city, said in July.
Pro-democracy groups have called for a nomination process open to the public, while Hugo Swire, a minister in the British Foreign Office, said in September the election system should give Hong Kong people a "real stake" in the outcome.
The US-China Economy and Security Review Commission's 2013 report to Congress last week said: "The totality of the evidence suggests that Beijing does not intend to allow real democracy to develop in Hong Kong."