It was originally envisaged as a parting shot by the Democrat legislators against the Tung administration over its dismal performance before the current four-year session ends next month. But when former Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming takes his turn to move a motion debate at the Legislative Council next Wednesday, he will deliver on behalf of the democratic flagship a message of conciliation and co-operation to Beijing. In his motion, he will call on Hong Kong people to 'join hands' with the central government to 'truly implement' the policy of 'one country, two systems'. The Democrats' call for a ceasefire with Beijing came out of the blue on Wednesday last week. It coincided with a surprise plea for conciliation between the democratic camp and Beijing by pro-democracy union leader, Lau Chin-shek, at a motion debate. The motion, moved by Mr Lau's long-time ally Lee Cheuk-yan and blocked by pro-Beijing parties in the functional constituencies, called on people to join the July 1 rally to express Hongkongers' 'determination to fight for universal suffrage, defend the core values of Hong Kong and improve the governance of the government and people's livelihood'. In his speech, Mr Lau, a maverick and a former Democrat, warned that a protracted stand-off between the democrats and Beijing would damage the interests of Hong Kong people. 'I believe both sides should show sincerity and open dialogue ... It will bring confidence and hope to people only if we can do so,' he said during the June 9 debate. Coincidental they may be, but the dual olive branches offered by leading pro-democracy figures to Beijing have apparently caught Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and the central government off guard. They signalled a new sense of pragmatism among a democratic movement that had previously been seen to have aligned itself directly against Beijing. Mr Tung reacted cautiously. He remained non-committal on whether he would lobby Beijing to re-issue home visit permits for more than 20 democrats. The issue is expected to be raised again by the Democrat legislators when they meet with him today. The response of mainland officials has been anything but consistent. On June 10, an assistant director of the central government's Liaison Office, Wang Rudeng, stuck to Beijing's long-standing principle of 'watching their deeds and words'. One day later, the Foreign Ministry's head in Hong Kong, Yang Wenchang, said the door for dialogue was always open. Mr Yang indicated for the first time that Beijing had never demanded the dissolution of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement in China as a precondition for dialogue. On June 12, Chen Zuo'er, a deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said there was no foundation for talks with a small number of people who sought to topple the central government. It was followed by a statement issued by the Liaison Office on June 13 reaffirming Beijing's commitment to strengthen communication with people from all walks of life. On Monday, a Liaison Office vice-director, Li Gang, said: 'The democrats said they want to have communication. Can they turn the July 1 rally into a ceremony?' Executive Council member, Leung Chun-ying, said: '[What] they [have said] kept changing. People feel puzzled. The most important thing for conciliation is to have persistent and concrete actions.' With hindsight, Mr Lau said he could have done better by informing the Democratic Party in advance about his speech. He only briefly told Yeung Sum, the party chairman, about it before the Wednesday sitting. The veteran activist, who heads the Confederation of Trade Unions, said he had based his speech on his observations of Hong Kong political development since the handover. However, a sense of acute awareness about the potential impact of the upcoming July 1 rally on mainland-Hong Kong relations had prompted him to try to defuse the long-time feud between the democrats and Beijing. Political observers say the central government was keeping a close eye on whether the July 1 protest would turn into an anti-Beijing demonstration following its decision not to allow people to elect their legislature and chief executive by 2007 and 2008. Last year, a combination of anger and frustration with the bumbling Tung administration's performance, particularly over the Article 23 fiasco, led to 500,000 people protesting on the anniversary of the handover. Mr Lau said he was worried the march would be seen by Beijing as a challenge to its authority. 'It should be a march for hope.' He told the South China Morning Post the vigorous public debate his speech provoked came as a surprise. 'I didn't expect such an enormous response. But it says something about the present political environment, that there is room for such an alternative voice.' Revisiting the thinking behind his speech, he said: 'I have to make a judgment on the crucial question: does Beijing want to rock the boat of Hong Kong? If the answer is yes, you only have two choices. You can either pack up and go, or put up a big fight. 'There's a lot of mutual distrust between both sides. It goes deep into the hearts of each side. It's time to remove the evil of distrust from our heart.' Mr Lau pointed out that in the past few years Beijing had gone the extra mile to help revitalise Hong Kong's economy. 'I see no reason why we cannot resolve these political disputes. By improving the relationship, we will create a lot of fresh opportunities for change,' he said, citing the issue of democratic development as one area. Executive Council member, Tsang Yok-sing, who is former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, said he was not surprised that Beijing would be concerned about the July 1 rally. 'Beijing has been deeply involved with some of the major political issues [facing Hong Kong]. Much of the public discontent has been inspired by Beijing [and] both sides understand they have to mend fences sooner or later,' he said. 'The present stand-off is simply not sustainable ... but it is clear the Democrats are not yet prepared for a 'great reconciliation'. They still have a lot of baggage.' Relations between Beijing and pro-democracy forces turned hostile in the wake of the bloody crackdown against student protestors at Tiananmen Square in 1989. In protest against the bloodbath, Szeto Wah and Martin Lee resigned from the now-disbanded Basic Law Drafting Committee. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement in China, chaired by Mr Szeto and formed at the heyday of the 1989 democratic movement, has since become one of the major friction points between democrats and Beijing. The Alliance, which helps organise Hong Kong's annual June 4 commemoration, has in its manifesto a call for the end of one-party dictatorship and a reversal of the official verdict on June 4. A handful of democrats, including vice-chairman of the Democratic Party Albert Ho Chun-yan, sit on the Alliance's executive committee. Tensions between the mainland and democrats intensified in the wake of last year's rally and the smashing success of the pro-democracy camp in the November District Council elections. Shocked by the democrats' rising power, Beijing adopted a harder line towards them. Lee Wing-tat, a vice-chairman of the Democratic Party, said the latest results of a tracking survey on public views towards them show people want a better relationship between the Democrats and Beijing. 'Respondents gave high marks to our work on the fight for democracy, but low scores on our relationship with the central government. But there has been no major change in their support for us in elections,' he said. 'We have always looked for an opportunity to give a more comprehensive picture of what we stand for. We want to show we are a party with character and an independent stance. We dare to speak up when we find the authorities have done something wrong. We do not oppose everything Beijing does.' He said Mr Martin Lee, who was the target of personal attacks by some mainland officials and pro-Beijing figures, had no reservations about initiating the 'joining hands' motion. An insider said the original motion drafted by Mr Lee was even more positive, adding it was being diluted because some members were worried a drastic shift of position could back-fire. Dr Yeung, who succeeded Mr Lee as party chairman about two years ago, said the party had been consistent in its stance on dialogue with Beijing. 'Differences on some political issues should not become obstacles for dialogue. Dialogue helps shorten the cultural gap between us.' Dr Yeung said they would not abandon such basic principles as their stance on June 4 and their opposition against the interpretation of Basic Law provisions on universal suffrage. 'We can speak in milder language. That will help,' he said. 'We do not expect major changes in relations before the September elections. But what we do now can pave the way for dialogue in future.' Mr Lee Wing-tat said there were no plans to make further drastic adjustments to their stance in the lead-up to the Legco elections. 'We will keep explaining ourselves. Next Wednesday's sitting is our last chance to move a motion at the current session. It's important that we present our full party character.' Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a leading political scientist at the City University, said dialogue should not be conducted without first setting out some principles. Communication between the democrats and Beijing, he said, has to be based on public opinion. 'I don't think there will be a breakthrough in the near future.' Professor Cheng said Mr Tung could play the conduit between the democrats and Beijing in facilitating communication. 'I don't know whether Mr Tung would like to play a role. Given his character, he may like to wait for the cue from Beijing.'