Britain has described recent statements by Beijing officials on SAR affairs as 'wayward remarks at variance with the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law'. Without naming names, outgoing British Consul-General Sir Andrew Burns said remarks had been made that were 'out of order' and 'off the mark'. In April, Beijing Liaison Office deputy director Wang Fengchao warned the media not to report remarks advocating Taiwan's independence, and last month business people were warned by He Zhiming of the Liaison Office not to do business with Taiwanese supporting independence. 'I see that as another wayward remark which is definitely at variance with the values and principles set out in the Joint Declaration and subsequently enshrined in the Basic Law,' said Sir Andrew. He would not say if SAR autonomy had been compromised, but praised the prompt assurance given by the Government. 'What I notice is the promptness with which the Hong Kong Government and the authorities on the mainland have stepped in to ensure that wayward remarks don't get taken out of context, taken too far,' he said in an interview with ATV's Newsline. He said he saw no sign of SAR freedom being curtailed as a result of Mr Wang's comment. 'There may have been particular reasons for that particular proposition to be advanced, but it certainly made no headway in Hong Kong society. I think the result of that controversy probably helps to remind people how important the freedom of expression is in Hong Kong,' he said. 'It's quite helpful that these debates spring up. What is so striking is the alertness and robustness with which the public opinion responds to issues of that kind. That seems to me a thoroughly healthy development.' Sir Andrew said Britain would continue to speak out against threats to SAR autonomy, despite claims by Beijing that London was interfering with internal affairs. 'Frankly for issues like that, it was a timely remark for us simply to refer back to the Joint Declaration and express some solidarity with the views expressed by the Hong Kong Government.' To the suggestion that Britain would not allow the SAR's problems to put London's trade relations with Beijing at risk, he said: 'We believe good relations are beneficial to Hong Kong too. If events happened which were deeply troubling, we would not hesitate to speak up publicly and of course in many diplomatic contexts we have.' He said he was satisfied with the overall situation after the handover. 'There is still probably quite a bit to go in some areas, particularly on the legal front . . . but by and large . . . the worst predictions have not been realised.'