The group plans to draft proposals early next year that will be politically neutral Pro-democracy academics will consult the public early next year about constitutional development, ahead of a similar exercise by the government expected late next year. The Power for Democracy group is also aiming to launch a petition for universal suffrage and intends to stage a rally on January 1. Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, professor of political science at City University, said the group, which he heads, was in the process of drafting proposals to put to the public early next year. 'Since the government is reluctant to draft its own [proposals], we are going to do it,' he said. Sonny Lo Shui-hing, an associate professor of politics at the University of Hong Kong who is drawing up the group's proposals, said they would be politically neutral and designed to help the public choose what form democracy should take and how quickly it should be introduced. '[The paper] will be in layman's terms. You won't need to be a politician to understand,' Dr Lo said. The paper outlines options for constitutional change, including the timetable for reform and the form consultation takes, for the election of the chief executive and the Legislative Council and the development of party politics. Pressure for speedy constitutional reform has grown since July 1, when 500,000 people marched in opposition to the National Security Bill. The Basic Law allows electoral reforms after 2007. The government had promised to begin consultations on constitutional change next year, and said a detailed timetable for the process would be issued this year. Critics said consultation had to start now to ensure there was time to pass reform legislation. At a University of Hong Kong forum yesterday on the possibility of having elections by universal suffrage in 2007, speakers said it was not an impossible dream and that the central government should realise democratic development would contribute to Hong Kong's stability. Legislator Martin Lee Chu-ming, former chairman of the Democratic Party, said: 'Action by the people can change the government. Nothing is impossible after the march for freedom on July 1.' Professor Cheng said the only way the government could improve Hong Kong's economy was through democracy because that would bolster the legitimacy of officials who at present could not implement policies because they were not elected.