An unprecedented attempt to allow the public to vote on the fate of the municipal councils was thwarted last night. The motion calling for a referendum to be held on District Councils elections day on November 28 was rejected by a vote of 33 to 17 after a two-hour debate. The move, sponsored by the Democrats, was a last-ditch attempt to block the Government's decision to abolish the urban council and the regional council after their interim terms end on December 31. Rejecting the motion, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Michael Suen Ming-yeung said Hong Kong did not have any laws on referendums. The issue should not be put to a simple vote of yes or no, he said. Mr Suen described the post-abolition arrangement and legislation over the past year as 'a road which has no return'. 'Overall, the public have acquiesced in our decision on the district reorganisation, if not supported it,' he told legislators. Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong vice-chairman Cheng Kai-nam said a referendum required constitutional backing and clear procedures. He also asked whether the issue should be decided by registered voters in the district councils. 'It seems that the idea is very impromptu. Much of the detail has not been well thought out,' he said. Liberal Party vice-chairman Ronald Arculli said overseas countries only resorted to referendums sparingly. Referring to the close votes by Quebecois in 1995 on whether to become independent from Canada, Mr Arculli warned that a referendum might split the public. Progressive Alliance chairman Ambrose Lau Hon-chuen cautioned that Hong Kong should not hastily take the step of a referendum, adding that the public had already made clear its views over the past year. But Democrat Fred Li Wah-ming, who sponsored the motion, said: 'The fact that it is unprecedented doesn't mean we should not give it a try.' Independent legislator Ambrose Cheung Wing-sum, who represents the provisional urban council in Legco, said a referendum was necessary in light of the split public opinion.