A trip to the World Expo for all lawmakers, criticised as a ploy to overshadow Legco by-elections seen by some pan-democrats as a referendum on universal suffrage, has initially drawn a lukewarm response. But despite a protest by the Democratic Party and the Civic Party, who have questioned arrangements for the trip, Legco president Tsang Yok-sing said the visit, which could help lawmakers experience the latest developments on the mainland, would not affect the by-elections to be held five days after the trip, on May 16. Neither was it designed to exclude the five lawmakers who earlier resigned to pave the way for the by-elections. In a letter to Tsang yesterday, Peng Qinghua , director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, said the Shanghai authorities would welcome the delegation for a three-day trip starting from May 8. All members of Legco will be invited - including some pan-democrats who do not have home-return permits. Instead of flying directly to Shanghai, they will take a detour to Wuhan via Guangzhou on the express rail line. But Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, leader of the Civic Party, said she and fellow party lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee would not join the trip - which was earlier billed as a gesture of goodwill extended by Beijing to improve communications. 'If the intention of the trip was to be a gesture of goodwill, it could easily have been postponed by two weeks,' Eu said. 'It is within our expectation that Beijing will try everything to target the de facto referendum.' Ronny Tong Ka-wah will be the only lawmaker from the Civic Party who might join the trip. The Civic Party's two other lawmakers, Alan Leong Kah-kit and Tanya Chan, resigned earlier and will contest the by-elections. Other pan-democrats earlier called for the dates to be postponed until the pair and three other lawmakers from the League of Social Democrats are returned in the by-election. Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said he was unhappy with the arrangement. 'We won't boycott it, but it is out of the question that all nine of us will go.' Ip Kwok-him, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said his party would join the tour but whether all of its lawmakers would go would depend on their schedules. He said the trip would be a good opportunity for local legislators to observe the expo and the mainland's high-speed railway, but it would not be an occasion for them to discuss political matters with Beijing officials. Lawmakers have until April 13 to decide if they will attend.