Three lawmakers say they will abstain on motion calling for a referendum A Legco motion calling on the government to conduct a non-binding referendum on universal suffrage suffered a setback yesterday when three pro-democracy lawmakers decided they would abstain from voting. The decision by Mandy Tam Heung-man, Kwok Ka-ki and Joseph Lee Kok-long was announced ahead of today's vote on the motion - which is certain to be defeated by pro-government lawmakers - at the Legislative Council's panel on constitutional affairs. The three legislators denied having made a U-turn, saying the 25 pro-democracy lawmakers had never formed a concerted view on the issue - contrary to the suggestions of some lawmakers - in previous meetings. Despite their decision, the three maintained their desire for universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008 had not changed and denied there was a split in the pro-democracy camp. They said they would move their own motion calling on the government to carry out a 'comprehensive and in-depth public opinion poll' on universal suffrage either in the panel or at a full meeting. Both Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who introduced the motion, and fellow pro-democracy lawmakers expressed disappointment over their decision. Dr Kwok, who represents the medical sector, said they could not support the motion because Hong Kong people did not have much understanding of what a referendum meant. 'We don't see, nor do we feel, that the whole of Hong Kong society is demanding the government conduct a referendum,' he said. He added that a referendum carried out by the government had a special meaning in constitutional law - which the law in Hong Kong did not provide for and which was different from a referendum conducted at community-level. Ms Tam, who represents the accountancy sector, maintained their stance on universal suffrage had not changed. 'Having reservations over the referendum does not mean that we oppose universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008, nor there is a split within the pro-democracy camp,' she said. Mr Lee said he believed the weekly meetings among pro-democracy lawmakers were informal discussions and they could vote according to their own choice. The referendum proposal has already been ruled out by the Hong Kong government and has drawn fire from mainland officials and pro-Beijing figures in Hong Kong. But the three lawmakers yesterday denied the central government's views had anything to do with their decision. They also added that they would take part in a referendum should the pro-democracy camp pursue it. Dr Cheung said he believed the three had misunderstood his proposal but denied it signified a rift among legislators in the pro-democracy camp. 'They might think that the referendum I proposed has legal abiding power. But there is no such law in Hong Kong. Anyway, I still respect their decision. The important thing is they are still supporting universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008,' he said.