The proposed joint preparation of the 1996-97 Budget by Hong Kong officials and Chinese experts drew criticism from the Democrats. The party chairman, Martin Lee Chu-ming, said mainland involvement in the preparation of the transitional Budget through the Joint Liaison Group was interference in the territory's internal affairs. 'Mainland officials have been vociferous in saying that Hong Kong Government was spending lavishly. They have also mentioned a 'car crash, killing all the passengers'. 'If they put their words into action and directly influence the preparatory work for the [1997-98] Budget, this will set a very bad precedent, damage Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and override the future SAR government,' he said. Mr Lee also accused China of intending to use the 'puppet' provisional legislature to scrutinise the Budget. 'A 400-member puppet selection committee is formed by a puppet Preparatory Committee, then helps form a 60-strong puppet provisional legislature to scrutinise the Budget when the SAR government is set up. 'They must know deep in their hearts whether they are representing Hong Kong people or Beijing officials.' Mr Lee said he hoped the Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen would clarify whether China had been given a veto on the Budget or if it was just being consulted. Independent Emily Lau Wai-hing questioned a need for co-operation, given China's tough stand on Hong Kong issues. She said Mr Tsang might have been replaced by the time the next Budget was put together. 'Now there are crazy dogs demanding government officials state their position [on the provisional legislature] and resign if picked in the team designate,' she said. 'I'm not sure who will handle the Budget next year as the top echelon of the civil service might be empty.' The Liberal Party chairman, Allen Lee Peng-fei, stressed the importance of close liaison between the Chinese and British governments, and the participation of the chief executive of the SAR in the preparation of the transitional Budget. Mr Lee, a Preparatory Committee member, said the SAR was responsible for three-quarters of the Budget straddling the handover. He urged both sides not to 'waste precious time' on meaningless arguments. Another Preparatory Committee member, Eric Li Ka-cheung, also called for close co-operation to make a 'through budget' possible. Mr Li said that it was futile to argue about who was taking the lead in preparing the Budget. 'Legco will be the first hurdle for the next Budget but the provisional legislature will also have its say,' Mr Li said. He hoped Mr Tsang could provide a 'through budget'.