Christine Loh Kung-wai, of Anson Chan Fang On-sang's Core Group advocating political reform, yesterday urged those who wish to preserve functional constituencies to heed public opinion and work together to 'ensure a smooth transition'. Ms Loh was speaking in a debate on the merits of functional constituencies, organised by the Civic Party, which pitted her against Hopewell Holdings chairman Sir Gordon Wu Ying-sheung. She warned that time may soon run out for those who have vested interests in maintaining functional constituencies. 'They're going to be overwhelmed by the younger generation coming through,' said Ms Loh. She cited the 2004 Legislative Council elections and December's Election Committee poll as indications that, even within the system, the younger generation is voting for democratic candidates. 'It's time for them to take a look at this, and discuss how to ensure a peaceful transit,' she said. In response, Sir Gordon, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, conceded that he had little understanding of functional constituencies and 'zero interest in politics'. He did note, however, that the Basic Law stipulated Hong Kong should maintain a capitalist economy. He feared that the return of more unionist legislators, such as Lee Cheuk-yan, to Legco would move the city towards a welfare state. 'The danger is, the middle-income people and the lower-income people will be swayed by a lot of politicians advocating a free lunch ... politicians tend to be very generous with other people's money,' he said. Ms Loh said she was disappointed that Sir Gordon didn't respond directly to the issue, but welcomed the debate as a good first step, since it gave him a chance to air his views and express his fears. The debate comes just weeks after the government commission studying political reform reported no progress on the issues of functional constituencies and the election of lawmakers. Ms Loh, in charge of co-ordinating co-operation between the Core Group and pan-democratic legislators on political reform, said she had prepared the documents for their first discussion, and would soon contact Democratic Party legislator Yeung Sum to arrange a meeting.