Veteran politician Lo Tak-shing, a one-time hopeful to become Hong Kong's first chief executive, died of heart disease at Queen Mary Hospital last night. He was 71. Lo had been in hospital for more than a month, during which time he was in and out of the intensive care unit, according to a close friend who did not want to be named. The former executive councillor and vice-chairman of the Basic Law Consultative Committee largely disappeared from the political scene after he was asked by Beijing not to pursue his bid for the top job in 1996 because of the strong opposition to his candidacy in Hong Kong's political circles. In one of his last public appearance, he refused to comment on the question of electoral reform. 'I really don't know and don't care. Hong Kong politics? It's not for me,' he said on receiving an honorary doctor's degree from Lingnan University in December last year. Wai Kee-shum, a long-time friend of Lo and a fellow co-founder of the New Hong Kong Alliance, said: 'He made a contribution to the community through his advisory roles to the British and Chinese authorities.' Lo was an executive councillor in the early 1980s and vice-chairman of the Basic Law Consultative Committee. He also served on the Preliminary Working Committee and later on the Preparatory Committee appointed by Beijing to prepare for Hong Kong's handover. Lo was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal in 1997. Democratic Party legislator Martin Lee Chu-ming, who was a Basic Law drafter, said Lo had tried very hard to gain Beijing's acceptance throughout his political career. 'He was a very clever and ambitious person but he never managed to realise his political wishes or achieve what he wanted,' Mr Lee said. 'I feel very sad that he did not used his faculties to advance Hong Kong's democracy.' Mr Lee said Lo was behind the setting of the Basic Law's requirement for separate voting by legislators in Legco's functional and geographical constituencies - a measure designed to curb Legco's power after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. 'Although I admire him as a very good bridge player, his political philosophy was very different from mine,' Mr Lee said. National People's Congress deputy Allen Lee Peng-fei said: 'Lo gradually faded from the political scene after knowing he had no chance of becoming Hong Kong's first chief executive.' Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said he was saddened to learn of Lo's death and expressed the government's condolences to his family.