Political parties have been accused of shying away from taking a stand on mainland overstayers - for fear of losing votes. Parties have been unusually quiet since January when 1,200 mainlanders began fighting to stay. 'It's a bit like the Vietnamese boat people. The whole subject is so unpopular with voters and everything, they don't want to get involved,' the lawyer representing the overstayers, Pam Baker, said. A landmark ruling in January granted mainlanders with parents in Hong Kong the right of abode, regardless of whether they were born out of wedlock or before or after their parents became permanent residents. Many of the 1,200 overstayers have parents in Hong Kong and have waited 10 to 30 years to live here. But the Government insists they must first return to the mainland to await permission. The issue is one of the most important since the handover. But in the past three months, only a handful of politicians have voiced an opinion on it. Democratic Party member Andrew To Kwan-hang said the mainlanders should be allowed to stay but said some colleagues were concerned about public opinion. 'I'm not worried about losing votes. I hope my voters will realise I'm supporting the overstayers over human rights,' Mr To said. Democratic Party leaders said they had made their opinion clear. They supported the Court of Final Appeal ruling but felt the mainlanders should first go back to the mainland to await permission. But the party, which has been a staunch supporter of human rights, snubbed overstayers after 179 of them were recently arrested pending an appeal against a High Court ruling telling them to leave Hong Kong. Party spokesman Albert Ho Chun-yan said the party did not speak out after the arrests because it felt they should go back to the mainland at that stage. The Frontier has not formulated a stance on the matter. Cyd Ho Sau-lan, the legislator most openly supportive of the mainlanders' cause, is the only Frontier member to become involved. She is acting as a member of Human Rights Monitor, which is demanding an independent inquiry into the treatment of the mainlanders. Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a City University academic, said supporting the mainlanders would be politically dangerous because of strong public opposition.