A SENIOR government spokesman yesterday defended the last minute withdrawal of an official report on South China Sea piracy to the United Nations, denying that the administration wanted to avoid offending China. The Secretary for Economic Services, Gordon Siu Kwing-chue, told legislators that more than 27 incidents against merchant shipping contained in the report had been wrongly classified as piracy. Meanwhile, the Hongkong Shipowners' Association is still seeking notes for the speech given at the May UN convention instead of the paper, which was struck from the official record. Legislators led by Ronald Arculli had voiced suspicions that it was considered too sensitive by the Hongkong Government as official Chinese vessels were mentioned in incidents reported. ''Unfortunately, the paper contained some information which could be regarded as misleading,'' Mr Siu said in his reply to Mr Arculli's question. ''Piracy as defined in international law is committed by persons from on board a private vessel for private acts. ''Eight of the incidents listed in the paper involved the exercise of jurisdiction by official vessels,'' he said. ''Seven of them involved vessels from China and one involved an official vessel from Vietnam,'' he added. The South China Morning Post revealed at the time of the UN's International Maritime Organisation's safety committee that no mention was made of China in the final address following Foreign Office intervention, despite specific references to China in distress messages from captains. Liberal legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing asked whether the withdrawal was due to the fact that a lot of Chinese vessels were involved in the incidents. ''There are so many incidents involved with the Chinese authority. Is that the reason why the Government has treated the incident as sensitive and that's why the paper was withdrawn?'' Mr Siu denied this, and said the paper was withdrawn after discussions with delegates from other countries, who said that some incidents in the report could not be defined as piracy under international law. ''We did not act under any pressure,'' he said. Incidents which involved vessels of a particular country in its own waters could only be defined as interception, he said. The Acting Secretary for Security, Ken Woodhouse, said that the Government had made representations to the relevant authorities on all the incidents. He said the Chinese authorities had suspected the vessels involved of smuggling into China. He added that the Government was satisfied with the decrease in the number of incursions by Chinese vessels and the degree of violence used. Michael Farlie, director of the Hongkong Shipowners' Association, said last night that the association had asked for a copy of the final address ''for our better understanding of the withdrawal'', but the request had not been met. The association had urged Economic Services before the meeting to put political considerations aside and use the forum to protest against China on humanitarian grounds. But Mr Farlie said he now accepted the Government's action. ''Megaphone diplomacy does not work against China. The Government looked at the situation in its widest context and at its widest implications,'' he said.