The SAR's two top leaders yesterday reacted angrily to a warning from Beijing that business people should not trade with Taiwanese firms advocating independence. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, in an effort to underline the Government's concern, said he had discussed the comments with the mainland's chief representative here, Jiang Enzhu. Mr Tung's deputy, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, said officials should not interfere with commercial decisions. The warning was issued by SAR-based official He Zhiming, when speaking to a group of pro-Beijing businessmen on Wednesday. Mr He said some Taiwanese businessmen supported independence but made money trading with the mainland. 'That is absolutely not permitted,' he said. 'I believe all of you, on listening to these remarks, will know how to choose when seeking Taiwan trading partners.' Mr He said business people should prepare to face the consequences if they did not heed the remarks. 'I am making the statement out of goodwill. It doesn't matter to me if you can bear them [the consequences].' The speech attracted immediate criticism on Wednesday, with one usually pro-Beijing legislator, Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun, describing it as tantamount to a threat. Speaking during a visit to Shanghai yesterday, Mr Tung said he had discussed the issue with Mr Jiang, the director of the central Government's Liaison Office. Mr He is a deputy director of the office. 'When I found out about the remarks, I was very concerned about them and contacted Mr Jiang. He was also very concerned and said to me the office would continue to operate according to the Basic Law and will not interfere with commercial activities in Hong Kong.' Mrs Chan, in her capacity as Acting Chief Executive, said: 'I want to stress two points. First of all, it is quite clear that [Mr He's] remarks have already raised widespread concern, particularly from the business sector here in Hong Kong. Secondly, the SAR Government has consistently stressed that trade and business matters should be kept strictly separate and apart from political considerations. 'It is inappropriate for any political consideration to affect business decisions. In our view, business decisions are best left to businessmen and should not invite the interference of any official of whatever status. Officials should not interfere,' she said. A government spokesman repeated the concerns, saying maintenance and development of trade and economic ties with the mainland and Taiwan were important to the prosperity and interests of the business community. The Democratic Party said the warning by Mr He was the latest in a series of intimidating remarks from the Liaison Office that represented a serious violation of the 'one country, two systems' policy. In April, Liaison Office official Wang Fengchao said the media should not report the views of those advocating independence for Taiwan. '[Mr He's comments] will seriously shake the confidence of foreign investors and local businessmen with mainland investments. It is unwise for mainland officials to repeatedly make political statements as China is about to enter the World Trade Organisation,' a Democratic Party statement said. Professor Lau Siu-kai, associate director of the Institute for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Chinese University, said the 'damage is done' even though both Mr Tung and Mr Jiang had acted swiftly. 'As Beijing has already said it might penalise Taiwan firms that support Taiwan independence, local businessmen will play safe and reduce their business with Taiwan partners. 'The task of reunification will be affected if the trade and economic relations between Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland suffer a setback.' Professor Lau said he received calls yesterday from diplomats who were confused about the remarks, particularly about whether there had been a breach of the Basic Law provisions that say the SAR should pursue a policy of free trade. 'There will be a lot of discontent and fear if they do not clarify the remarks immediately,' he said. A spokesman for the Liaison Office said the Basic Law guaranteed a free-trade policy and the protection of economic activities.