People are being urged to vote in by-elections, which pan-democrats see as a de facto referendum, to make Hong Kong a testing ground for developing democracy on the mainland. Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and Andrew To Kwan-hang, the leaders of the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats, yesterday urged the public to take part in the Legco by-election to show Hong Kong can lead the way politically. During a forum organised by the University of Hong Kong's social science faculty yesterday, Eu said she hoped the people of Hong Kong could show Beijing that voting and democracy were peaceful forms of political expression. 'In this way, we hope to make a contribution to the development of our country,' she said. Since they announced their plan, Beijing and loyalist groups in Hong Kong have lashed out at the 'blatant challenge' to Beijing's authority, saying it was 'unconstitutional' and amounted to an uprising or movement to liberate Hong Kong. To said this seemed to indicate Beijing still harboured fears about democracy and did not want Hong Kong to be a testing ground for it. 'Which is all the more reason to participate in this movement,' he said. Eu added that Beijing had signalled it was content to use Hong Kong as a testing ground for a liberal economy, but whether this also applied to a liberal democracy was less clear. She noted that, until recently, Hong Kong had been allowed to gradually increase the number of directly elected seats in the legislature, until a National People's Congress Standing Committee decision in 2007 put a stop to it. 'Where is the progress now, in 'gradual and orderly progress'?' she said. Both To and Eu reiterated their support for Tertiary 2012 - a group of students who hope to stand in the by-elections to ensure the de facto referendum comes to fruition. The students announced their intentions as concerns mounted that there would not be a ballot, since major rivals such as the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Liberal Party decided not to contest it. 'This is an indication that the public wishes to see a chance to cast a vote on universal suffrage,' Eu said. But the two parties will have to discuss whether to adjust the plan. The league has indicated it would consider including votes obtained by Tertiary 2012 as votes in support of their issue, although the Civic Party is concerned this may send mixed messages, complicate election expenses, and open the whole polls exercise to more criticism.