Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang has asked the Chinese government for permission to start democratic reforms that would allow direct elections for the chief executive by 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported. Tsang made the request in a report to Beijing that is mandated under a 2004 proclamation by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. He said opinion polls showed that more than half of Hong Kong’s public expects direct elections for the city’s top government post by 2012, but he did not give concrete recommendations or a schedule for democratic reforms. In a statement, he said that direct elections by 2017 would “stand a better chance” of being accepted by the majority in Hong Kong. The territory’s chief executive is currently elected by an 800-member assembly mainly made up of local dignitaries. Tsang promised to resolve the direct-election issue by the end of his tenure in 2012 during his reelection campaign, but democracy advocates have criticized him for being weak on the matter.