The Hong Kong government should take a more active role in balancing the influence of big corporations in public policy-making, as the erosion of the state's role in society would affect social cohesion, a senior UN official said. Describing the strong show of people power in the series of demonstrations following July 1 as a display of the public wish for democracy, the Hong Kong-born official said the emergence of a strong civil society and increased public participation were keys to building social harmony. Gloria Li Kan, chief of the Social Perspective on Development Branch of the UN's Economic and Social Affairs Department, said in Hong Kong that the city and other governments were having to deal with the growing influence of multi-national corporations and big business groups. 'As globalisation has weakened the capacity of the government, the private sector has taken over and all government policies are being so heavily influenced by big corporations.' she said. 'You cannot let the free market run its own course. The government has to impose regulations as it has a responsibility to provide for the well-being of the citizens. But that has become eroded.' Local critics have long criticised the level of influence the business sector wields over the government in Hong Kong, where public policies are often seen as favouring businesses rather than public interest. Ms Kan said in order to build a cohesive society, the government should increase regulations while encouraging corporate responsibility and promoting respect for democracy and rule of law.