Critics of former governor Chris Patten believe he has done Hong Kong a great disservice because he derailed the through-train of the Legislative Council. When Mr Patten championed his 1994-95 constitutional reforms, he was roundly accused of jeopardising the chance of a smooth transition on July 1, 1997. Even now, many say that democrats such as Martin Lee Chu-ming, Szeto Wah and Emily Lau Wai-hing, would be on the first legislature of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) and that a provisional legislature would not exist if not for Mr Patten's provocative plan to enfranchise Hong Kong in 1994 and 1995. But let us pause to consider: what real damage has the reform plan done? Last week, Hong Kong people witnessed a transition that could not have been smoother. A huge international television audience must have been aware that Prince Charles was handing over to President Jiang Zemin much more than a former colony of six million-plus people. China also gets a booming economy, with property developers making unprecedented profits and stock investors and speculators watching their investments rally to all-time highs. More important, looking at the crowd gathered outside the legislative building at midnight on June 30 and watching the peaceful procession of demonstrators for greater democracy in Hong Kong, the only possible conclusion, notwithstanding the 1995 election, is that Hong Kong has not collapsed. It is business as usual. However, we should not overlook the problems with the legislature. It is true the pre-handover assembly was dissolved and replaced by a far less democratic lawmaking body. This is regrettable indeed. But in hindsight can we really say with absolute certainty that pushing ahead with the 1994-95 political reform plan was completely meaningless and not worthwhile? And can we say for sure that a more conservative election model envisaged by China, but capable of straddling the handover, would definitely be a better deal for Hong Kong? A fair and honest answer to both questions must be that we do not yet know. Superficially, the 1994-95 reform package gave Hong Kong people only a glimpse of democracy. But, because of it, we know what it is like to have a stronger voice of the community represented in the legislature. The constitutional plan probably went beyond a few more elected seats for the democrats, or, in Beijing's eyes, a few more de facto directly elected seats for Mr Lee's party. A deeper intention of the 1995 electoral plan could well have been to raise the degree of political awareness among Hong Kong people in general, and reinforce it among those who had already been jolted by the June 4, 1989, crackdown. It is a fact that in 1995 we saw a record number of candidates contest the Legco polls and witnessed a record number of voters turn out to exercise their constitutional rights. For Hong Kong people, the fact that more people are aware of their rights and able to take part in an election is far more important than actual poll results. This is what democracy is all about. Democracy should not be regarded as a forum designed to facilitate the victory of democrats; its real purpose is to let people choose those they believe represent their best interests to be their voice in the ruling institution. While Hong Kong people may regret the 1995 electoral structure was dismantled and replaced by a new assembly, it is important to note that the impact of the 1995 elections cannot be wiped away. Aspirations for democracy endure and for many people this should be for the long-term good of Hong Kong.