The central government's liaison office is facing calls from across the political spectrum to tone down its approach to local affairs amid mounting pressure for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to step down.
This came after Paul Tse Wai-chun, a pro-establishment lawmaker seen as being close to the liaison office, criticised the frequent appearances of Beijing's representatives in the city.
"I think it is inappropriate for [representatives] of the liaison office to make public appearances too often," said Tse. "[For example,] sometimes an officiating guest from the liaison office - even for some activity at Wong Tai Sin housing estate - is sitting in a more prominent position than a government official.
"This makes people feel like Hong Kong is copying the mainland's practice, where you have a municipal official and a party chief [above him]. I think Hongkongers are still uncomfortable about that."
Democratic Party lawmaker and Wong Tai Sin district councillor Wu Chi-wai said yesterday the liaison office should not appear in local activities, but that this "has been very common".
With the new liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming taking the reins earlier this month, pan-democratic lawmakers were concerned the central government may tighten its grip on the city.
They were also critical of the liaison office's "meddling" in local affairs in recent years.
Tse, who voted in favour of a pan-democratic motion of no-confidence against Leung, echoed that view, saying he feared the administration "might tend to rely more on the liaison office's influence" amid challenges to its authority.
"To me, Hong Kong has reached breaking point, but maybe Beijing still needs to wait and see," he said.
"Considering the people's distrust, the legislature's refusal to co-operate, and that even some officials are having difficulties working with him … [I think Leung] must reflect deeply and correct [his faults] immediately, otherwise he might not remain in his job for much longer."
Tse admitted getting a leg-up from the liaison office during the Legislative Council election campaign in an October interview, but yesterday said: "[The office] has … helped me … [but] I would not … accept [any request for me] to surrender everything and act as a voting machine."