The Politburo Standing Committee, the Communist Party's highest body, endorsed the Democratic Party's plan to allow three million-plus Hong Kong voters to elect candidates for five new functional constituency seats in 2012 at a special meeting in the early hours of June 19. A person familiar with the central government's handling of the talks with the Democrats confirmed the Politburo's involvement and said Peng Qinghua , director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, played an active role in convincing state leaders to concede to Democrats' demands. Confirmation of the Politburo's participation shows that managing political change in Hong Kong is a top priority for the central government. While the debate about political reform in Hong Kong is largely ignored in national media and rarely captures international attention, it is the only forum where Beijing is drawn into a discussion about democracy and representative government. Beijing now finds itself in a challenging position where it must accommodate pressure for political liberalisation in the nation's most affluent and open city while continuing to harshly suppress demand for similar reform in the rest of the country. The fact that key decisions about Hong Kong's political development are taken at the highest level is also a reminder that Beijing is determined to avoid a repeat of the unexpected mass protest of July 1, 2003, that effectively unseated then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. The person familiar with the talks said that during a meeting with Peng on June 15, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen gave his analysis of the repercussions if the political reform package was vetoed by the Legislative Council. 'The chief executive said Hong Kong people who were concerned about the city's democratic development would be very disappointed and the government could face a governance crisis,' the person said. Tsang was told by Vice-President Xi Jinping in Shenzhen early last month that the Democrats' proposal had been rejected by the central government leadership. Peng conveyed Tsang's views to the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs shortly after the meeting and recommended adopting the Democrats' proposal. It was approved by Legco on June 25. Officials relayed Peng's views to Xi, who was visiting New Zealand at the time. Xi, who heads the group which deals with Hong Kong and Macau affairs, gave the green light.