China's leading spokesman on Hong Kong, Lu Ping , has laid down the ground-rules for the local press after the handover: it can criticise China but not write articles that support Taiwan's independence. Asked if the press would be allowed to advocate 'two Chinas', Mr Lu shook his head and said emphatically: 'Absolutely not.' His remarks appeared to confirm fears among local journalists that press freedom will be restricted after sovereignty reverts to China. The Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office made his remarks in an interview with CNN. Last night's broadcast was his second within a week to the US media. Mr Lu said criticism of China would be allowed conditionally, citing the safeguards for a free press in the Basic Law and international covenants. 'They can criticise the [Chinese] Government. They can object to our policies. They can say anything they like, but if it led to action they have to be careful. 'If they really want to overthrow . . . the central Government, that's another thing.' Asked about someone writing that there should be 'two Chinas' beginning tomorrow, Mr Lu said: 'No. Our's is 'one country, two systems', not 'two countries, two systems'.' When pressed on whether banning the advocacy of 'two Chinas' would infringe freedom of the press, Mr Lu replied: 'Freedom . . . of the press has to be regulated by laws . . . everything should be according to the law. 'Like your country, if some press thinks that Hawaii should be separated from the United States . . . and somebody advocates another government . . . will it be allowed? I don't think so. 'Will you allow flying two national flags?' he asked, adding that he did not know the US law well. But advocacy for independence for Hong Kong or Taiwan was not within the high degree of autonomy promised the future Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic. 'There are certain national laws that Hong Kong should also abide by,' he said. Freedom of the press and speech were among the civil liberties to be protected under the Basic Law. Article 23 says, however, the SAR government should enact laws to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central Government. The Government has submitted a proposal to China through the Joint Liaison Group on how to enforce the highly-sensitive provision. A Government spokesman said the remarks were 'quite puzzling as they were given in an interview which was presumably meant to be reassuring'. He said Mr Lu said on the one hand that he saw no need for many changes to the laws about freedom of the press, but on the other said newspapers would not be allowed to give certain views to which they were entitled under existing laws. 'I'm sure the Hong Kong community will want Director Lu to clear up this confusion,' he said. Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming said: 'We oppose Taiwan independence. But if someone wants to, why not [allow them to say so?] 'What Mr Lu has never said is that whatever the press can do now will be allowed in future. That's 'one country, two systems'. If we have to follow China's, it will be 'one country, one system',' he said. Legislator Christine Loh Kung-wai said the remarks were 'disturbing'. She urged dialogue with China on what freedom of expression should mean. Yeung Kam-kuen, chairman of the Hong Kong News Executives' Association, said there were grey areas that needed clarification. He said local media had been able to express different views or report diverse opinions in the community in their own editorials. That did not mean they were advocating a particular idea such as 'two Chinas', he said.