Mock referendum attracts 7,700 who express nearly unanimous backing for full democracy About 7,700 people gave almost unanimous support for universal suffrage to elect the chief executive in 2007 and all legislators in 2008 in Hong Kong's first mock referendum on the issue yesterday. The number of ballots was little more than a third of the 20,000 that had been prepared by the organisers, the Civil Human Rights Front. 'We think the turnout is acceptable,' said Gary Fan Kwok-wai, chief organiser of the poll held during yesterday's democracy march. 'About one in three of those who marched has voted.' The government has rejected calls to hold an official referendum, which could be seen as a direct challenge to the central government's decision against universal suffrage in 2007-08. Mr Fan said the smooth operation of the mock poll showed Hong Kong was ready for a referendum. He said he hoped the government would take into account the strong democratic aspirations of the public when publishing electoral proposals later this year. He noted that yesterday's result - 98 per cent supported universal suffrage - was higher than the 60 to 70 per cent support indicated in opinion polls, saying this was probably because those who came for the vote and the march had stronger democratic aspirations. People queued at the ballot boxes in Victoria Park shortly before the polling started at 11am. Later in the day, some had to queue for up to an hour in alternating rain and sunshine to cast their ballots before joining the march at the nearby soccer pitch. A 66-year-old retired man, Lau Chu-kwok, was the first to vote. He said the exercise was the only way for the people to air their aspirations. 'Our chief executive and the principal officials are only chosen by a small circle,' Mr Lau said. Another voter, 89-year-old Pong Yuk-ying, said she hoped the new chief executive would not just act according to Beijing's wishes. She also criticised the police for banning slogans that might be deemed provocative or intimidating. But some people who voted said the mock referendum was also a small-circle exercise, saying it targeted only people who marched. Mr Fan stressed the poll had been conducted in a stringent way in order to ensure its credibility and avoid abuses. He said academics who helped organise the exercise would issue a report on it in two weeks.