Three other legislators show an interest in new alliance The political grouping formed by three legislators who quit the Liberal Party this week would be supported by businesspeople and property developers if they chose the 'right direction', said another Liberal politician - who did not rule out joining them. Independent legislators signalled interest in joining the new group - a development that would strengthen the influence of conservatives in the business sector who are cautious about introducing universal suffrage. On Wednesday, Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, Sophie Leung Lau Yau-fun and Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen announced their resignations from the pro-business party, and accused its leaders of freezing them out. Their decision was the result of a power struggle between acting party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee and Mr Lam, who had initially won the backing of party members to succeed James Tien Pei-chun as chairman but then saw supporters desert him. Mr Tien quit after he and all his fellow candidates for direct election to the Legislative Council were defeated. Mr Lam was thrust forward as Mr Tien's successor amid talk that David Lie Tai-chong, a Liberal close to Beijing, was seeking to wrest control of the party and realign it with business-sector conservatives who oppose scrapping Legco's functional constituencies under universal suffrage. Under Mr Tien, the party supported phasing them out and was committed to contesting direct elections. Yesterday Mr Lie said it was natural for the party to split because of its failure to learn the lessons of its electoral defeat. He said that while he had yet to decide whether to quit the party himself, he would not rule out joining the new alliance. 'I have learned never to say 'never',' he said. Property developers are considering whether to continue funding the party, and Mr Lie said the new alliance of former Liberals might get their support instead. 'Developers will definitely support the new group if its direction is right. Let's give the new group some time to prove itself,' Mr Lie said. The three Liberals who quit represent the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce, the Hong Kong Federation of Industries and the textile and garment sector in Legco. Mr Lie said they could attract support from representatives of other business chambers and rural patriarch Lau Wong-fat, who quit the party days after the election in a row over a support for a rival candidate. Philip Wong Yu-hong, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce's Legco representative, said he was willing to join the new alliance if approached because he and the ex-Liberals were of like mind on many issues. 'Functional constituencies should not necessarily be scrapped. Hell would break loose if that's the case. How could the business sector keep its confidence? Investors would run from Hong Kong,' Mr Wong said. Lam Tai-fai, the lawmaker representing the Chinese Manufacturers' Association, said he was close friends with the three former Liberals and there was certainly 'room for co-operation' with the new alliance as long as it was not a political party. Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said that although the group would have a certain amount of influence as a 'voting alliance' backing business interests in the legislature, the business sector would not invest in it for the long term. 'The business sector should reflect whether it will continue to invest in a party which exclusively champions business interests without regard for the general public interest. The likely outcome is for them to shift their lobbying to the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Civic Party,' he said. Both the Civic Party and the DAB say they have long tried to represent the interests of the business sector. Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said businesspeople should start investing in some 'credible political parties' that care for the interests of both business and the general public. ''At least there is still the Civic Party,' some business-sector friends told me after the Liberal Party's election defeat,' she said. Ip Kwok-him, vice-chairman of the DAB, said the party had not yet considered the prospect of absorbing either the Liberals or the new group formed by ex-Liberals, although 'the DAB has many businessmen as members'. A government source said the fragmentation of the Liberals would 'make life more difficult' for officials lobbying for support in Legco for controversial policies.