The constitutional affairs chief yesterday defended the government's internal review of political reform, saying Beijing had been kept informed throughout the process. The much-awaited review of Hong Kong's political system beyond 2007 took an abrupt turn last week when the government scrapped plans for a detailed timetable on the way forward in favour of a taskforce to consult Beijing. Pro-democracy forces have demanded to know what matters need to be discussed with Beijing as they should have been addressed already by the internal review. In an apparent attempt to defend himself, Stephen Lam Sui-lung confirmed yesterday that the Constitutional Affairs Bureau and the Department of Justice had long been studying the relevant issues in the Basic Law and had come to preliminary views. 'All along we have been doing our own internal review and have liaised with the central government at various levels. They are aware of our studies,' he told a seminar on political reform held by Power for Democracy. The recent public response showed people understood that the central government had a constitutional power and duty to scrutinise Hong Kong's political reform, he added. Asked if those studies could be disclosed for public discussions, Mr Lam said 'the government would have to have some internal discussion on that. We also have to communicate with the central government'. Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, lecturer in applied social science at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, criticised Mr Lam for failing to address the issues at an early stage. 'These issues have existed in the Basic Law for some seven years but have not been raised until today. What have you been doing over the past year and a half? As a principle official, how can you account to the public?' he asked. Hong Kong Democratic Foundation chairman Alan Lung Ka-lun said contacts had said Beijing was worried about Hong Kong's democratic aspirations spilling over to the mainland. At a separate forum on the policy address, Wong Man-kong, a local deputy to the National People's Congress, said the debate on constitutional reform should have been withheld until 2007. But he said the mass demonstrations had speeded up the process. He was adamant that economic recovery was the government's top priority and warned the public not to turn their demand to the extreme and 'push for reforms just for the sake of reform'.