Concerned for the future of Hong Kong, the group of 12 went to the mainland in 1983 to listen and make some suggestions Twenty years ago they were Hong Kong's passionate 'Young Turks' as they headed north on an historic mission. Tonight they reunite, undoubtedly to reflect on what 20 years can mean in politics. Then they called themselves the 'Young Professionals Delegation' as they joined together to ask the central government to extend British rule. Now their views have pushed them to different poles of the political spectrum. Allen Lee Peng-fei, who in the intervening years became chairman of the Liberal Party, headed the 12-strong group. With him was Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, who remains currently vice-chairwoman of the body that represents Hong Kong's conservative business elite, as well as Martin Lee Chu-ming, the self-styled torch-bearer of Hong Kong's democracy activists. Joining them will be current Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang. Tonight, however, they will put any differences aside to reflect on a more united - if idealistic - past. Reflecting on the heady ambitions of the trip, Allen Lee is frank - they did not believe the Chinese government's post-1997 plans would work. 'We were afraid that 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong' would end up with rule by people designated by Beijing,'' Mr Lee said. 'What happened in Hong Kong after the handover has proved our anxiety was not groundless.'' The central government perceived the young professionals, aged 35 to 45 at the time, as potential future leaders for Hong Kong. The group began its six-day trip to Beijing on May 16, 1983. They met National People's Congress vice-chairman Xi Zhongxun and the widow of former premier Zhou Enlai, Deng Yingchao. Reflecting on all the changes since, Allen Lee said tonight's gathering would inevitably discuss political issues and even the performance of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. Other members of the group included Edward Ho Sing-tin, chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, Philip Kwok Chi-kuen, then chairman of Wing On Group, and his brother Kwok Chi-hong. Another was the late Legco member Stephen Cheong Kam-chuen. Allen Lee said the delegation proposed extending the lease of Hong Kong to the British government when it expired in 1997. They wanted Britain to maintain its sovereignty until the political and economic systems of Hong Kong and the mainland had converged. 'We were the first group to put forward the proposal of 'Chinese sovereignty-British administration' in Hong Kong,'' he said. 'At the time, most Hong Kong people had no confidence in the communist regime in China. We truthfully told our thoughts to the Chinese leaders and we were adamant that our stance won the support of the majority of Hong Kong people at that time,'' he said. Mr Lee, currently a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress, said Chinese officials asked him to relay a message to the British government that China wanted the negotiation on the future of Hong Kong to start as soon as possible. 'I passed the message to then Governor Sir Edward Youde after returning to Hong Kong and the Sino-British talk started in July that year,'' he said. Martin Lee said he asked Allen Lee to form a political party after their trip to Beijing. 'I engaged in serious discussion with Allen, Selina and Stephen Cheong on the issue until Allen pulled out after returning from another trip to Beijing in 1985.'' He said he had no idea what Allen Lee heard during that trip to Beijing. But Allen Lee said he was not interested in forming a political party at that time and the young professionals did not gather again. Martin Lee, former chairman of the Bar Association, was still the target of the Chinese government's attempts to create a united front and was appointed a member of the Drafting Committee of the Basic Law in 1985. 'On the eve of the June 4th incident in 1989, then director of Xinhua's branch Xu Jiatun asked me to form a pro-business party with Allen but the proposal was dropped after the tragic event,'' said Martin Lee, who resigned from the committee in protest at the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. In 1990, he founded the United Democrats of Hong Kong, and in 1994 merged it with another political group, Meeting Point, to form the Democratic Party, which remains the thorn in the side of both the central and Hong Kong governments. Allen Lee, who was executive councillor between 1986 and 1992, Mr Cheong with Mrs Chow, Mr (Edward) Ho formed the Co-operative Resources Centre in early 1990s. They founded the Liberal Party in 1993. Mrs Chow is currently a legislator and chairwoman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Mr Ho retired from politics three years ago. Mr Cheong and Kwok Chi-hong died earlier while other two members, Leung Kwok-kwong and Mary Lee Ting-kam live overseas.