HONG KONG people care about one thing - making money. Democracy? We never heard this word before Chris Patten arrived. For the community here, it is extraordinary that someone should make such sweeping statements about the territory. You might believe they came from some ill-informed outsider with no knowledge of Hong Kong or someone who still lives with memories of the good old days of the 1960s. But no, they came from a very successful professional in Hong Kong - Leoni Ki Man-fung, chief executive of the Better Hong Kong Foundation, the group founded by Hong Kong tycoons which aims to promote upbeat stories about the territory. Ms Ki's remark was put to the American press, printed prominently in USA Today two weeks ago. Perhaps Ms Ki was under the impression she was addressing an overseas audience and therefore it did not really matter whether what she said was correct or not. She might also think that readers of USA Today could not possibly be so knowledgeable as to be capable of challenging the validity of her statement. Therefore she could capitalise on the opportunity to paint a picture of the territory which she and her bosses prefer others to see. Or maybe she simply hoped that, however incredible her statement sounded, by chance, some of the American readers might start to think Hong Kong was, after all, not a place that cherished democracy as other pro-democracy factions have suggested. If Ms Ki indeed believes this, she will be disappointed because such a statement is highly unlikely to impress an American audience. It also risks offending the local community which over the years has fought hard to secure a greater degree of democracy here. The Governor put it mildly when he said Ms Ki's remarks were exceptionally unfortunate. Many locals, especially the millions of voters who have turned up at polling stations at previous elections, will be outraged by such a piece of disinformation. Saying that Hong Kong people only care about making money and had not heard of democracy before 1992 is not only an insult but also a humiliation for the local community which treasures freedom, human rights and a fair and open political system. The Better Hong Kong Foundation was established with good intentions - to dispel negative views about Hong Kong and to dismiss the idea that Hong Kong is finished. Given the resources channelled by local billionaires, the foundation can do a lot of good helping to promote the territory in the run-up to 1997 and beyond. But by spreading a message that Hong Kong people are just a greedy lot who care about nothing but money, the foundation undermines its own credibility and tarnishes Hong Kong's reputation. Let's not forget that Hong Kong is an international city and every day there are thousands of overseas visitors travelling in and out. WILL foreign government representatives, overseas visitors and political figures believe what Ms Ki has said? If they do, will they start to think that her statement only reflects the sentiment of the tycoons who founded her group, and will they start to believe in what Mr Patten earlier told the Daily Telegraph - that Hong Kong billionaires' principal concern was that they should go on being billionaires, a statement which infuriated the business community here? Undoubtedly, the Better Hong Kong Foundation is interested in a more measured pace of democratisation in the territory, but there are better ways to spread their message. Feeding a distorted picture of the community's aspirations to people either in China or overseas, won't help Hong Kong. Instead, it will only reinforce outsiders' negative views about Hong Kong or create more confusion among those who have yet to form an opinion about the territory. A good piece of lobbying work is to honestly reflect the real picture - admitting Hong Kong's shortcomings and difficulties while promoting the elements which contribute to our success. If local businessmen want to avoid the unpleasant criticism that they have, in a way, sold their souls to Beijing to protect their business interests, it would be better for groups such as the Better Hong Kong Foundation to review their lobbying tactics.