Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Michael Suen Ming-yeung says the Government has no political preferences in its choice of appointees it intends to parachute in the district councils when they take office later this year. It is difficult to know whether he expects the voters to believe him. If so, he seriously underestimates the voting public. It must be clear the Government would not have gone to the trouble of reversing Chris Patten's reforms and reinstating appointed members on the new district bodies if they were not felt to be a more reliable group of people than those directly elected by the people. It is true there is no party of government as there is, for instance, under the British parliamentary system. But there is, nonetheless, a body of establishment figures whose general views, mostly forged through years of service to government in various capacities, are more likely to favour the official view than those representing the general public. There are also many members of district organisations, kai fong groups and so on, whose views are well known to the administration. The Government tends to believe elected members are too prone to play to the gallery to win popularity among their constituents. Yet there is also a gallery for appointed members who wish to win reappointment: the Government that put them into office. Yet Mr Suen persists in trying to tell people the Government has no political preferences. That may be a woeful attempt at Bill Clinton-style semantics, meaning it has no preference for a particular political party (itself a nonsense: does anyone imagine the Government would be appointing large numbers of Democratic Party members?). Alternatively, it is a downright misrepresentation of the facts. The notion that anyone would be fooled is laughable. Nevertheless, perhaps Mr Suen is so out of touch with public opinion he really does believe the people of Hong Kong will accept the Government knows nothing about its appointees or what they stand for. Maybe he genuinely thinks voters do not know most potential appointees are likely to be drawn from a pool of individuals with some previous record of service. He may even think the man in the street accepts the Government can have no inkling of a man's views if he does not disclose his political affiliations. Alternatively, to give him the benefit of the doubt, it may be that, far from imagining the people of Hong Kong will accept whatever flimsy excuse the Government trots out, Mr Suen simply assumes nothing he or the administration he works for can say will be taken seriously. In that case officials may as well say black is white. That might almost be seen as a charitable explanation for his behaviour. If nothing else, it would signal an acceptance at the highest level that the Government does still retain a modicum of respect for voters' opinions and understanding of public affairs. Those opinions are not to be listened to, as that might complicate the business of Government; but at least the Hong Kong people are not to be taken for complete fools. Sadly, however, indications are the administration's defeatist cynicism is not yet so pronounced. Mr Suen does appear to imagine that if he words his statements carefully enough he can actually convince us all that black really is white. It was good to learn that losers in the district council elections were unlikely to be compensated immediately with appointed seats. But in a system where anyone who fears unpopularity can be appointed rather than risk losing an election, that small concession does little to tilt the balance in favour of democratic development or accountable government.