BEIJING has no plans to extend direct elections to people's congresses at municipal or provincial levels, a senior official of the national legislature said yesterday. Under the revised election and organisation laws passed last February, direct elections will begin for people's congresses members in counties and townships, but levels above that remain indirect. During the National People's Congress (NPC) in March, members openly called for greater power and representation of the public. Qiao Xiaoyang, deputy director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, said direct elections would not be extended. 'Democracy is a process which should only progress step by step,' he said. He defended the decision to limit direct elections, saying that was what the people wanted. He said people's congresses would not compete with the Communist Party for power as the leadership of the party was enshrined in the constitution. China still had a long way to go before it could reach the stage of 'complete equality' but he admitted that representation of the public in China's political system was an important step toward democracy. Liu Yiu-chu, a Hong Kong NPC deputy, said: 'We know the political reality and have no false hopes. Chinese leaders are rather conservative. They are afraid that they will lose control. 'There is not much problem with the indirect elections in China, and direct election is not the only thing that counts. 'But at least make the nomination process more open and be more cautious with the candidates.' Meanwhile in Shenzhen, Zhou Changhu, a member of the Special Economic Zone's People's Political Consultative Conference, said congress members should have greater power in the election of senior government officials. He said Shenzhen leaders were studying plans to allow members of the People's Congress more choice in the election of officials like mayors and vice-mayors. 'From the central level to the regional level, all governments have paid attention to introducing democratic elections to select their officials,' Mr Zhou said. 'Shenzhen leadership is ready to extend democratic participation into a higher level and let People's Congress members nominate candidates for vice-mayors and mayors.' Shenzhen has introduced elections into the leadership of various departments and administrative districts in the 1990s. To date, three senior members of the Government are not members of the Communist Party. They are Health Bureau Chief Liu Jiashen, Vice-director of Futian District Wu Jingtian and Vice-director of Lowu district, Pang Yanming.