The central government was surprised so many protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong on January 1, but is still not convinced there is a groundswell of support for democracy. Sources close to the central government said yesterday that Beijing believed dissatisfaction with the economy, the leadership of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and a host of other complaints motivated many people to join the crowd, which organisers said was 100,000 strong. The sources said central government officials thought the protest was far smaller than the march by 500,000 people on July 1 because of the successful initiatives they had taken to boost the Hong Kong economy, such as the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement. The sources said Beijing saw the continued unrest primarily as an economic problem, and many there still believed there was nothing significantly wrong with a political system they saw as having worked for the past 100 years. Allen Lee Peng-fei, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress, received phone calls from mainland officials yesterday canvassing his views on the march. 'They were aware of Hong Kong people's strong appeals for a faster pace of democracy and their dissatisfaction with [Mr Tung],' he said. Ma Lik, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, said the government should address the demand for a faster pace of democratisation. Mr Tung yesterday maintained his silence on the much-awaited democracy review. However, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung, in brief remarks to the media, stressed that a review of democratisation should involve thorough debate in order for consensus to be reached. 'We are fully aware that the people of Hong Kong have great concerns over the constitutional development,' he said. But Mr Lam would not say when public consultation would take place. Describing Mr Lam's response as meaningless, legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Civil Human Rights Front, said if there was not a satisfactory response from Mr Tung, he would seek to embarrass the chief executive during a Legco motion debate on Wednesday's policy address. 'I would again move an amendment to the motion of thanks to turn it into one that regrets the lack of substance on democratic development,' he said. The director of the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong, Robert Chung Ting-yiu, yesterday said its researchers estimated the size of Thursday's crowd at between 45,000 and 74,000. Meanwhile, the pro-democracy camp claimed victory in the newly formed district councils yesterday after members managed to pass an urgent motion in favour of universal suffrage at the first meeting of Shamshuipo District Council.