Moderate stance on calls for reform is expected to stay even if today's march attracts a large turnout Beijing is expected to maintain its moderate stance on the call for a faster pace of democratic reform even if a huge crowd turns out for today's protest march, say sources close to Beijing. Mainland academics also said the central government would not change its policy of keeping a peaceful political atmosphere in Hong Kong. A commentary in the People's Daily yesterday also called for peace and unity in the city. Officials in Hong Kong privately said they expected a crowd of between 200,000 and 300,000 this afternoon at Victoria Park. The Liberal Party also sent a similar message from Beijing to the city, quoting top state leaders as saying that Beijing was willing to communicate with pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun said at a meeting yesterday between officials of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and David Lie Tai-chong, an executive committee member of the party, that state officials were 'very positive' towards improving communication with the pro-democracy camp. 'They said the door of communication is always open to those who support 'one country, two systems' and the Basic Law; those who do not seek help from foreign forces to subvert the central government; and those who are willing to protect Hong Kong's stability and prosperity. These include those who hold dissenting views,' Mr Tien said. A source close to Beijing said they would continue the 'soft approach' to Hong Kong after the march. 'This policy will not change at least until the Legco elections in September,' he said. 'Whether this will continue will remain to be seen.' Zhang Tongxin, director of the Centre for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Studies at People's University in Beijing, said yesterday the central government would not have a negative impression of Hong Kong people even if 1 million took to the streets today. 'The central government realises that Hongkongers are used to expressing their political aspirations by participating in marches. I don't think Beijing would change its policy towards Hong Kong even if a million people take to the streets in Hong Kong today,' Professor Zhang said. He said he expected 250,000 to 300,000 people to join today's march on the seventh anniversary of the handover, saying Hong Kong people were still not satisfied with the extent of improvements in the way they are governed. The People's Daily commentary yesterday said social harmony could be brought about in Hong Kong if its people united and sought common ground. It said 'peace would bring fortune' and any conflicts in Hong Kong society could be resolved with 'reason, dialogue and tolerance'. Acknowledging there were grievances and conflicts in Hong Kong society, it called for harmony to prevent the city's prosperity and stability being undermined. 'The mainstream opinion in Hong Kong is calling for harmony. No problem cannot be resolved if there is more reason, dialogue and tolerance,' the commentary said. A Hong Kong official said: 'Any march which draws more than 100,000 is stunning and merits concern.' Chinese University's Asia-Pacific Institute predicts up to 300,000 will participate. Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said yesterday the government understood that Hong Kong people demanded improvements in governance and a better response to their aspirations. He said the government was stepping up research on public policy and would co-opt more people of middle-class and professional backgrounds onto advisory bodies.