Democrats oppose key element of plan to expand Legco and election committee A battle looms over a government proposal for 2007-08 political reform, with leading democrats and Beijing at loggerheads over a key element - the role of appointed district councillors. Democrats are digging in their heels in their opposition to the 102 appointed members being included in the electoral package, which would reserve five new Legislative Council seats for all district councillors, who would also sit on an expanded election committee. A source close to Beijing said the chance of excluding the 102 appointed members was slim, adding: 'It is just unfair to single out the appointed members.' But Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat said the party would have no alternative but to oppose the proposal if government appointees were given the same right as elected councillors. Originally pencilled in for the end of this month, the publication of the proposal in the fifth report of a taskforce headed by the Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan has now been rescheduled to mid-October. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is expected to outline the skeleton in his October 12 policy address, leaving a full account to be given by Mr Hui. Under the proposal, 10 new Legco seats would be created, five each for geographical and functional constituencies. The five new functional constituency seats would be reserved for the 529 district council members, including the 102 appointees. All district councillors would also sit on a 1,600-member election committee for the election of the chief executive in 2007. The other extra committee seats would be shared among various sectors. Only a small number of district councillors could vote, under the political sector, in the 800-member panel that elected the chief executive in 2002 and in June. The source said that although the package marked a significant step forward it still fell short of democrats' expectations. 'Their asking price is too high. It remains difficult to get a consensus. But at least there's room for discussion.' Another source said Beijing had reservations when the idea was first raised by Mr Tsang. 'They gave a go-ahead after they were assured there would still be a safe margin [for the government] with the inclusion of appointed [district council] members.' If the proposal failed to get the required two-thirds majority in Legco, Beijing would not find continuation of the existing system unacceptable, the source said. 'It will only mean a personal defeat for Donald.' The Liberal Party had opposed the model, while the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong had expressed grave reservations, another source said, but the parties would eventually back the model in view of the Beijing factor. Not all democrats are rigidly opposed to the plan, however. 'It's not a bad deal,' a pan-democratic legislator said. 'My bet is the package will get through.' In a related development, the taskforce report is also expected to say that Mr Tsang's current appointment constitutes one term, meaning he will be able to serve only one more term if he seeks re-election in 2007, according to media reports. Basic Law Article 46 says the chief executive may serve for no more than two consecutive terms, prompting dispute over whether Mr Tsang - now serving the remaining two years of Tung Chee-hwa's tenure - could serve for one or two more terms in his own right.