A referendum on whether Hong Kong should introduce universal suffrage by 2007 would result in a challenge to the central government's authority, a senior mainland official was quoted as saying yesterday. Qiao Xiaoyang, deputy secretary-general of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, told a 35-strong delegation from the Hong Kong Bar Association that he would not speculate on the motive behind the proposal. 'Objectively speaking, the NPC Standing Committee has already ruled out universal suffrage by 2007. If a referendum is still being held, it gives an impression of challenging the central government,' Mr Qiao was quoted as saying at yesterday's meeting by Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, a member of the Article 45 Concern Group. Speaking to reporters before the meeting, Mr Qiao said he was aware of Hong Kong media reports that Ms Eu would explain to him why a referendum would not violate the Basic Law. But he sidestepped questions from reporters over whether a referendum was illegal from Beijing's perspective. Ms Eu said she told Mr Qiao the proposal for a referendum should be treated differently from that in Taiwan because there was no independence movement in Hong Kong and people in the city supported the Basic Law and the 'one country, two systems' principle. 'It is only a scientific way of reflecting the wish of Hong Kong people,' she said. 'Opinion polls show that most Hong Kong people support universal suffrage. Can we say that these people who support universal suffrage by 2007 are challenging the Basic Law or resisting the central government?' The Bar Association also proposed to mainland officials that all Legco members should be allowed to travel to Beijing for talks with central government officials. They received no reply to their demand.