Consultation on constitutional reforms is extended beyond the election period The consultation on Hong Kong's constitutional development has been extended beyond the Legislative Council elections to give political parties more time to respond, Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced yesterday. Mr Tsang said the one-month extension, until September 30, would help establish a consensus on the way forward in the new Legco. The move has fuelled speculation that the government wants to determine the strength of the democrats in the new legislature before deciding if it should make more concessions on the electoral package. The three-month public consultation on changes to the electoral methods for the chief executive and Legco in 2007 and 2008 was originally to end on August 31. Speaking after attending a youth forum on the electoral changes, Mr Tsang said the government had decided to postpone the deadline. He said it would enable those who are busy electioneering to submit their views after the polling day on September 12. 'I believe this will be conducive to building a consensus in Legco,'' he said. He would not be drawn on whether the government was only waiting to see the outcome of the Legco elections, saying there had been calls for a longer consultation period all along. He also dismissed concerns that the release of another report on the electoral proposals would also be put back as a result. 'We have struck a balance. We still plan to issue the fourth report in the autumn,' he said. Asked if the consultation was extended pending Beijing's final instructions, Mr Tsang said: 'All along we have had dialogue with the central government on constitutional development.' But the extension was the Hong Kong government's 'own' decision, he added. The taskforce headed by the chief secretary has so far held 11 forums attended by 800 people from different backgrounds. More than 140 submissions have been received. Ma Ngok, an assistant social science professor at the University of Science and Technology, said the government was considering whether to adjust the electoral package depending on the strength of the democrats in the new Legco. 'If the democrats win many seats in Legco, naturally they would have more bargaining power,' Professor Ma said. 'The government might want to wait and see the new balance of power in Legco and decide if a more liberal package is needed. 'After all, it also wants to enhance the mandate for its proposals and win enough support in Legco,' the social scientist said, referring to the Basic Law requirement that any electoral change must have the support of two-thirds of Legco. He said a longer consultation period was unlikely to have a major impact on the ongoing elections.