HONG Kong people say they will accept the challenge thrown down by Governor Chris Patten to rally to the banner of democracy. They said they will put democracy into practice by letting the Legislative Council amend any agreement reached between Britain and China on electoral reform. An exclusive South China Morning Post poll one day after the Governor's impassioned plea to the public to stand up for Hong Kong's way of life and democracy, showed his policy speech on Wednesday had struck a powerful sympathetic chord. No less than 78 per cent agreed Hong Kong people needed to stand up for democracy, although a less overwhelming 52 per cent said they were personally prepared to make a stand, with a further 16 per cent content to leave it to others to do so. Some 18 per cent said they were happy with the situation as it was at the moment. ''If we are not prepared to stand up for Hong Kong's way of life today, what chance of doing so tomorrow?'' the Governor asked with more than rhetorical force. Almost 60 per cent of those responding to the Post's snap poll agreed the community should be prepared to stand up and be counted in defence of its way of life. Twenty-three per cent disagreed, while 19 per cent said they did not know. The poll of 605 adults by Hong Kong University's Social Sciences Research Centre, also revealed that there would be somewhat less support for Mr Patten pressing ahead with his constitutional reforms should there be no agreement with China. Some 43 per cent agreed he should go ahead regardless, while just over a quarter said he should not. This question produced the largest number of ''don't knows''. A full 30 per cent said they either did not know or found it hard to say. There was stronger support, however, for the premise that the Legislative Council should be entitled to amend the Patten package even if there was an agreement on political reform with China. Half the respondents said Legco should be allowed to amend the package, while a quarter each said they were against or did not know. Mr Patten has indicated it would be up to Legco to amend an agreement, although Beijing has attacked the idea. Analysing the survey results, pollster Robert Chung Ting-yiu said that while Hong Kong people generally agreed with Mr Patten that they should stand up for Hong Kong's way of life this seemed ''to be an agreement in principle rather than practical support''. ''In view of people's hesitation for Mr Patten to press ahead for his reforms if no agreement could be reached, and the divided opinion on whether Legco could amend any agreement reached, people seem to be worried about the Chinese factor,'' he said. ''Mr Patten should take special care of this factor before making his next move.'' Governor's spokesman Mike Hanson said last night that the poll carried ''very impressive results''. ''It's consistent with other polls taken recently,'' he said. ''I don't think anyone can be in doubt now that Hong Kong people do care about democracy. ''It reflects they do want to stand up for their way of life.'' When asked if Mr Patten was prepared to table his electoral package in the Legislative Council after noticing the public's determination to stand up for democracy, Mr Hanson refused to give a direct reply. ''What I can say is Mr Patten has said the electoral arrangement should be open, fair and acceptable to the people of Hong Kong. ''And I think the poll shows the package is acceptable to Hong Kong people,'' he said. Meanwhile, speaking at his second public forum on the policy address yesterday, Mr Patten reiterated that the arrangements on the 1994/95 election could not be held on indefinitely to wait for an agreement with the Chinese side. ''There comes a moment when you have to go away and get on with life as best you can. So whether we get an agreement or whether we don't get an agreement, at the end of the day, we will have to go to the Legislative Council with our proposals,'' he said. Responding to an audience's call for a referendum, Mr Patten again ruled out the possibility by saying that the right to vet the electoral bill should rest with the Legislative Council. Senior Executive Councillor Lady Dunn said Mr Patten should not be seen as passing the buck to Legco even if the electoral bill was to be tabled under a no-deal situation. She said whether an agreement was achieved or not, a bill on 1994/95 electoral arrangements was bound to be passed by the Legislative Council. The Governor made it clear several times that he did not intend to set any deadline and he hoped the Sino-British talks would bear fruit, she said. The survey was conducted by the Social Sciences Research Centre at Hong Kong University on Thursday by randomly selecting the telephone numbers from directories and by computer of 605 Hong Kong people over 18.