The Democratic Party yesterday rejected by a wide margin a proposal for its members to participate in a de facto referendum on universal suffrage in 2012 through mass resignations by pan-democrat lawmakers. The proposal was opposed by 229 party members at a meeting, with 54 voting in favour of the motion and one abstention. The party's central committee decided to allow party members to canvass for votes for League of Social Democrats and Civic Party members who will stand in the by-election triggered by the resignations, although they will not be allowed do so in the party's name. Under the plan, a pan-democrat lawmaker from each of the five geographical constituencies will resign, triggering by-elections to create a de facto referendum on democracy. League vice-chairman Andrew To Kwan-hang said the Democratic Party's decision showed it lacked vision and courage. 'I'm not disappointed with the Democratic Party's result because I never pinned any hopes on it,' said To, a former Democratic Party member. The league would proceed with its resignation plan anyway. The Civic Party said its executive committee would make an announcement on the resignation plan after a meeting tomorrow. Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan admitted his party and the other two pan-democratic groups had had a 'temporary point of departure' on strategy. 'I believe the temporary difference will not affect unity within the pan-democratic camp,' he said. He would urge the other two groups to reconsider their plan. Democratic Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said yesterday's vote represented mainstream thinking in the pan-democratic camp. 'I can't accept the notion that our party has been marginalised within the pan-democratic camp,' she said. Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming said he was disappointed with the result, adding that he would assist pan-democrats canvassing for votes in the by-election. Democratic Party leaders and the 'reformist faction', a minority group within the party which backs the resignation plan, lobbied party members before the meeting. Party leaders strongly oppose the resignation plan, which they fear will see the camp lose seats. The 'reformist faction' comprises district councillors in the New Territories East constituency and other members who hold influential positions in the party's New Territories East branch. Tensions ran high before the meeting, with rival groups gathering outside the venue, the YMCA Centre in Yau Ma Tei, chanting slogans at others arriving in the hope of swaying their opinion. About 20 young activists who had mobilised on the internet, some in masks, kneeled on the ground and called on party members to back the resignation plan. But about the same number of older Democratic Party supporters urged members to vote down the plan and strive for democracy through established channels. Party leader and veteran Szeto Wah criticised the young activists as troublemakers. 'Kneeling down is not a meaningful democratic action,' he said. 'If they knelt before (League of Social Democrats chairman) Wong Yuk-man, do you think he would change his mind?' Szeto said he believed his party's rejection of the plan would not lose it public support, and that he hoped other pan-democratic groups would respect the decision. 'Please don't use foul language to attack us,' he said. Szeto criticised Lee, his long-time partner in the democracy movement. 'He seems to be flip-flopping with his stance all the time, he said. Lee denied yesterday that he had ever changed his stance, and said he had always supported the referendum plan. Pan-democrats are dissatisfied with government proposals for 2012, which include creating 10 extra seats in the legislature, five to be decided by direct election and five by district councillors' votes. It also proposes excluding appointed district councillors from the electorate in the new functional constituencies and enlarging the committee that elects the chief executive in 2017 to 1,200. Speaking at a church function, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of the Hong Kong Catholic diocese, said the Democratic Party would have 'no choice' but to participate in the resignation plan. 'The government is shameless in coming up with such a reform proposal,' he said. 'People have to do something radical to make their voice heard.'