Former financial chief John Tsang yesterday became the first of four chief executive hopefuls to formally qualify for the leadership race next month.
He submitted 160 nomination forms to the returning officer yesterday morning - a minimum of 150 nominations are required to qualify for the contest.
Later yesterday, retired judge Woo Kwok Hing also managed to secure the minimum 150 nominations, making it his "happiest moment in the past three months", said Mr Woo, 70.
The election is on March 26. To become chief executive, a candidate will need to get at least 601 votes from a 1,194-member Election Committee.
Although Mr Tsang, 65, declined to give a breakdown of his nominations as they would still need to be validated by the returning officer, the majority were from the pan-democratic camp.
Among his handful of pro-establishment supporters were property tycoon Thomas Jefferson Wu of Hopewell Holdings and Mr James Tien, Ms Selina Chow and Mr Felix Chung of the Liberal Party.
Mr Tsang's strongest rival , Mrs Carrie Lam, 59, former chief secretary, is reported to have bagged over 300 nominations within the first week that nominations opened on Feb 14.
She is expected to submit her forms on Tuesday, a day before the submission deadline.
With Beijing declaring Mrs Lam, who is the city's former No. 2 official, as its preferred candidate, the other three contenders, including former security chief Regina Ip, have struggled to secure nominations from the pro-Beijing camp, which holds more than 800 votes in the Election Committee.
Both Mrs Ip and Mr Woo attended an election forum organised by pro-democracy political group Power for Democracy at Hong Kong University yesterday, in what was seen as their last-ditch attempt to secure more nominations from the pan-democratic or pro-democracy camp, which fights for universal suffrage and pushes for a one-man-one-vote system to elect the city's chief executive.
In her concluding remarks at the forum, Mrs Ip said: "Even though at the moment my nominations are lagging behind, I will not give up or let anyone persuade me to quit, or strike any deal (with anyone for me to pull out) because I want to fight for more (manoeuvring) space for Hong Kongers.
"If I am elected, I believe I am the most prepared, the most capable candidate."
The 66-year-old chairman of the pro-Beijing New People's Party declined to reveal how many nominations she has gathered so far, but it is understood that she has more than 20, mostly from her own party.
She had said previously that some of the voters who had pledged to nominate her pulled out after Mrs Lam joined the race.
Mr Woo, who is not affiliated to any political party, emerged as a winner after the forum when 47 pan-democrats handed him their nomination forms.
Power for Democracy convenor Andrew Chiu said about 40 pan-democrats have not decided who to nominate.
With the extra 47 nominations, Mr Woo now has a total of 156.
Meanwhile, radical pan-democrat Leung Kwok Hung, better known as "Long Hair", said he would not join the race after failing to secure 37,790 votes, a target he had set to achieve in an online mock poll.