The Democratic Party is optimistic about its future despite claims yesterday that China believes its leaders will be forced into exile after the handover. An internal party report has concluded it will remain popular and win support in the 1998 election. However, the Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao yesterday reported a study conducted by China estimating that the Democrats would split after the handover and their key members would be forced to flee overseas. It said Beijing believed the popularity of the Democrats would be undermined because it was launching 'destructive activities' which would affect the stable transition of Hong Kong. But party general secretary Law Chi-kwong said the study 'was obviously conducted by someone poorly informed about Hong Kong, the thinking of Hong Kong people and the Democrats'. Mr Law said the party believed it would remain popular. 'Our estimation is that the provisional legislature will be occupied mainly by the 'yes' men. But the public will still want a channel expressing opinions other than people within the council. 'The Democrats will be able to provide this,' he said. The major premise of this belief was that Beijing would allow the Democrats room to survive. Vice-president Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the Chinese report was only wishful thinking by those who hated the Democrats. The report would be discussed this week by the party's central committee, which would fix the direction of the party for the next two years. 'Its focus is on training and organisation of the party,' Mr Cheung said. 'The target is to maintain members' integrity and improve the party's communication with the public.'