A visit is being brokered by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to take some lawmakers to the earthquake zone in Sichuan. The aim, ostensibly, is to familiarise lawmakers with the situation in the devastated province. However, Mr Tsang is no doubt also trying to set up an opportunity for some democrat legislators who have been barred from visiting the mainland for years to do so. This would help boost his political standing with them, reeling as he and his administration are from the row over the high pay and nationalities of the new political appointees. The latest development comes at a sensitive time. Vice-President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Hong Kong from July 6 to 8. The trip will be his first to the city since taking over the responsibility of overseeing our affairs late last year. Mr Tsang, therefore, has every incentive to create a good atmosphere with lawmakers to make sure Mr Xi's official visit is a success. But it appears that only 20 legislators can go on the trip. The mainland's explanation is that ground conditions are still not safe and it would be difficult to accommodate all 60 lawmakers. Yet one cannot help but suspect that perhaps mainland and Hong Kong officials still have reservations about how some of our legislators who have a record of speaking out against Beijing's alleged abuses might behave on such a trip. Lawmakers will meet tomorrow to devise a fair way to choose who will go. Hopefully, a representative number of the so-called 'dissident' legislators will be allowed on the trip. While the democrats have reasons to be frustrated about the travel ban, they should seize this opportunity to demonstrate their concern for the nation and willingness to work with Beijing. This is not the first time Mr Tsang has worked to arrange a visit for the democrats to the mainland. In September 2005, they were taken to Guangdong ahead of the introduction of a constitutional reform package to make our political system modestly more democratic. But the democrats stood their ground on a matter of principle and vetoed the package. As a result, relationships between the group and the central government have further soured. Let us hope the outcome this time will be more positive. Sichuan will serve well as common ground on which all sides can meet in a spirit of goodwill. The earthquake's devastation and the suffering of the victims have moved and mobilised Chinese everywhere to help them rebuild. All sides should also keep the best interests of Hong Kong's future in mind. It has been three years since the democrats' visit to the Pearl River Delta. Now, hopefully, a few of them will go to Sichuan. It may take a long time before they have a chance to go all the way to the capital. But in the meantime they should work to narrow their differences with Beijing.