Candidates for Hong Kong's next chief executive must be endorsed by a majority of a nominating committee, the National People's Congress Standing Committee decided on Sunday.
Voters in the special administrative region can then pick their leader from those candidates, the standing committee ruled in a legally-binding resolution passed unanimously by the top legislature.
Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the standing committee, said that the resolution was significant for the implementation of the "one country, two systems" policy and the gradual democratization of Hong Kong
The top legislator appealed for rational discussion and concerted effort from Hong Kong people to realise the goal of universal suffrage in the 2017 election for chief executive.
Under the Basic Law, the nominating committee has the sole authority to put forward candidates for election as chief executive.
The committee must be consistent with the size, composition and methods of choosing its members with the electoral committee that chose the current chief executive in 2012.
Each candidate must be endorsed by a majority of the committee. Two or three candidates will be selected for the popular election, in which each registered voter in Hong Kong is entitled to pick a candidate.
The winner of the election will be subject to appointment by Beijing.
The Hong Kong government will now draft a detailed election proposal and consult the public in the coming months. A resolution detailing the reform will be given to the Legislative Council in the first quarter of next year.
Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung supported the decision and maintained that the full electorate in Hong Kong will no longer be bystanders in the city chief election if the Legislative Council endorses the amendment to the Basic Law.
"We cannot afford a standstill," Leung said. "Universal suffrage for the CE election through 'one person, one vote' by Hong Kong people is not only a big step forward for Hong Kong, but also a historic milestone for our country."
Leung, who is entitled to seek a second term in the next election, appealed for the peaceful expression of views as the city continues to refine the electoral setup, such as the chief executive's political affiliation and the minimum threshold to win the election.