The decision is seen as reflecting a new sensitivity towards public opinion The about-turn by Hong Kong's election watchdog on a controversial polling arrangement reflects a new sensitivity to public opinion after 500,000 people took to the streets over proposed security legislation on July 1, politicians and academics say. Their comments came after Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing, chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission, reversed a decision to cut polling times at the November district council elections. The move followed public uproar over the arrangements, which critics said would restrict people's voting rights and reduce the election turnout. Democratic Party chairman Yeung Sum yesterday welcomed the commission's decision and called off an earlier plan to seek a judicial review to challenge the changes. 'We really have to praise Mr Justice Woo for listening to good advice. He has made a prudent and suitable decision,' Dr Yeung said. Party vice-chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said the incident showed that public bodies should consider public opinion in light of the real situation in society. 'They should not only look at head counts and base their decisions on how many signatures or how many people turned up on the streets,' he said. Mr Ho said there should be thorough consultations before polling arrangements for next year's Legco elections were finalised. Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, professor of public administration at City University, said the incident showed that public organisations and the government had become more sensitive to public opinion and that the public was more prepared to press its demands. 'Before July 1, people would swallow it if the government snubbed their demands. But now they are more prepared to fight for what they want, and this trend could well continue,' Professor Cheung said, citing recent examples, such as the Wan Chai land reclamation row and the fight to get rents dropped in public rental flats. Ivan Choy Chi-keung, another political scientist at City University, said officials now feared people might return to the streets if they ignored public opinion. But Mr Choy warned that the government's credibility would continue to fall if it kept wavering when making decisions. However, the government had made a wise decision this time as voter turnout could be boosted. Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung also welcomed the commission's decision and denied its authority had been affected. 'The commission has operated independently in accordance with the law and has listened to public views,' Mr Lam said. But he added that it was too early to say whether reduced polling times would be reintroduced in time for next year's Legislative Council elections. Power to the people April 28: In a little-noticed move, the Electoral Afairs Commission launches public consultation on new election guidelines, including the three-hour cut to voting times. May 27: Consultation period ends. July 1: An estimated 500,000 people turn out on the streets on the anniversary of the handover in protest at the proposed National Security Bill and the government's performance. Many call for more democracy. September 22: New guidelines are announced confirming the cut to polling times. September 22 to 26: 166 submissions are received by the commission. All but two opposed the cut in polling time. September 26: Old polling times are reinstated.