Government think-tank head Shiu Sin-por has stood by his controversial defence of the role that the central government's liaison office is playing in Hong Kong affairs, saying that the office and its predecessor have been "part of Hong Kong's political life for the past 60 years".
"It's normal for the liaison office to seek understanding of Hong Kong policies which fall outside the domain directly handled by the central government," Shiu, Central Policy Unit head and a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said yesterday.
"If the policies are related to Beijing, then the role of the liaison office is stronger," he said.
His comments yesterday followed an outcry from the city's pan-democrats after he said on Monday that the liaison office's influence on Hong Kong lawmakers was "a reality" that Hongkongers should accept.
The remarks came as the second omission of two key phrases underpinning the city's Special Administrative Region status - this time from a CPPCC resolution - raised questions about Hong Kong's autonomy.
Shiu said the political role of Beijing's representatives in Hong Kong stretched back 60 years - beyond the office's establishment in 2000. He was referring to the Xinhua News Agency, which formerly acted as Beijing's de facto consulate in the city.
A political resolution passed at the CPPCC closing session yesterday stressed the importance of "deepening reform" in the nation's development. In mentioning Hong Kong, it focused mainly on the "one country, two systems" principle under which the SAR was founded.
But for the first time since 2003, it omitted the phrases "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong" and "high degree of autonomy". Both phrases were also omitted from the maiden work report of Premier Li Keqiang last week.
Mainland officials said that since the two phrases were part of the "one country, two systems" principle, they did not have to be repeated every year.
Separately, Executive Council member Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said some Hongkongers were using the electoral reform debate to promote a pro-independence movement.
"[A small number of people] want to make use of this [electoral reform] to condemn the central government," said Li, also a CPPCC delegate. "Their purpose is to advocate Hong Kong's independence."
Li said the Occupy Central movement was not an effective way to force Beijing to introduce genuine universal suffrage.
"If the pan-democrats are discontented with the final electoral plan, they should call on voters to cast blank votes as a gesture of protest when the chief executive election is held," he said.
Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing called Li's remarks on pro-independence movements "absurd". "How can Beijing have a full grasp of Hong Kong if they are only listening to people like Li?"
Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said: "There are only one or two radical youngsters waving the [colonial] flags … Does that mean Hong Kong is putting forward a pro-independence campaign? [Li's comment] was completely irresponsible."
Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said his understanding was that Beijing officials were willing to sit down for talks. "Many pan-democrats also want to talk to those who represent Beijing. But [they] worry that if they sit down, many others will misunderstand," he said.