The constitutional affairs chief yesterday denied the government is trying to brainwash dissidents into dropping their demands for universal suffrage. Stephen Lam Sui-lung also sidestepped a barrage of legislators' questions about whether Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa believed demands for constitutional reform and a referendum on the issue were troubling Beijing. The secretary for constitutional affairs was speaking a day after Mr Tung warned in his policy address against 'giving our country worries and trouble', and said the government would 'help those who still have doubts about or feel antagonistic towards the central government to change their minds'. Also on Wednesday, Central Policy Unit head Lau Siu-kai told the media that Beijing was concerned about public demands for introducing universal suffrage by 2007 and the democrats' push for a referendum. Former Democratic Party chairman Yeung Sum led the attack on Mr Lam during a meeting of the Legco constitutional affairs panel. He called on Mr Lam to say whether Mr Tung thought demands for full democracy worried Beijing. Emily Lau Wai-hing of The Frontier labelled Mr Tung's wish to change dissidents' beliefs as an attempt to 'brainwash' the opposition into submitting to Beijing's line of thought. 'He really had a problem in making this comment ... Why doesn't he help the central government change its mind and get closer to public opinion? It is his job to ask President Hu [Jintao] to identify his own inadequacies,' Ms Lau said. Mr Lam sidestepped the questions by saying better communication was needed between Hong Kong and Beijing over constitutional reform. He said the Hong Kong government respected the legislature's views, but the public held different ideas on reform. 'You are all intellectuals and it would be impossible to conduct re-programming of your thoughts.' Pro-government parties voted down a motion moved by democrat Kwok Ka-ki calling for an expansive opinion poll on a timetable for universal suffrage. The vote came as US consul-general James Keith said his government favoured a more representative government in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, at the same meeting, Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat accused Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong of telling 'an indirect lie' after he denied Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's visa application had been rejected. Mr Ma was unable to visit Hong Kong after criticising Beijing's planned anti-secession law.