A diamond conglomerate boss has courted controversy by asking his staff to oppose Occupy Central.
Addressing his workers as "children" in a company-wide e-mail, Lawrence Ma Yung-yi, chief executive of Lee Heng Diamond Group, urged them to "wake up" and see the "hypocrisy" of pro-democracy leaders.
Ma, a member of the National People's Congress who has previously served on Hong Kong election committees, advised against breaking the law for pro-democracy leaders who themselves "would not sacrifice for society".
Instead, he suggested his staff register with Silent Majority, a pro-government movement opposed to Occupy Central.
"Children … you love democracy and joined the July 1 rally. You clashed with the police, occupied roads, stormed the Legislative Council and are at odds with the mainland," Ma wrote in the e-mail, sent on Friday.
"Students, wake up. Do you see … the children of [the Occupy Central organisers] come out? These people only ask other people's children to fight for democracy, paving the road for their own children."
A sit-in protest at Chater Road by pro-democracy campaigners after the July 1 march resulted in more than 500 arrests.
Occupy Central organisers said that while they "respected" those who took part, they had not encouraged them.
Occupy plans a much larger sit-in in Central if the government fails to deliver a reform plan offering voters a genuine choice of candidates for the 2017 chief executive election.
Professor Chan Kin-man, an organiser of Occupy Central, said Ma's remarks were part of a campaign coordinated by pro-Beijing forces.
"Parents should respect their grown-up kids' decision on whether to take part in Occupy or not. There are legal and illegal ways to support it. We will not reveal whether our children have taken part … we have to protect their privacy."
Ma's e-mail was sent to all employees in the Lee Heng Diamond Group, which owns about a dozen companies including MaBelle, Mabros and Falconer Jewellers. MaBelle has some 50 branches in Hong Kong.
"I was quite worked up when I read it," said one staff member. "Both the tone it took and the content were humiliating … it's none of his business."
A representative for Ma said he "did not write the text, only forwarded it".