Hong Kong member of the National People's Congress, Peter Wong Man-kong, is a successful businessman, but a frustrated politician. He knows he has much to offer China, but is upset he can't help. And he's not the only one. 'The whole Hong Kong delegation ... is of like mind,' said Mr Wong, who is two years into his second five-year term as a deputy to the National People's Congress. According to congress regulations, Hong Kong's 36 NPC deputies, who act as a conduit to the central government, are responsible for listening to the public and linking Hong Kong with central authorities. Mr Wong and his colleagues feel they are hindered in their efforts to help Hong Kong's government and its people because they don't have permanent offices. The deputies hold monthly meetings at the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong. 'This regular conference, however, is of no substantial meaning to the public,' Mr Wong said. 'It's almost impossible for people to find us there, and tell us what they want us to do.' Another deputy, Ma Lik - chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) - feels the same way, after trying without success to get an office for eight years, ever since the handover. 'An office which can be accessed by the public is a necessity so deputies can better serve the people of Hong Kong,' he said, adding that people sometimes sent letters to the deputies who had the widest media coverage. Mr Ma proposes that after setting up an office, deputies would take turns manning it so there would be someone there to meet the public and help solve or follow up on problems and queries. 'However, the biggest difficulty is funding. Who pays the bill?' Mr Ma said. One option woulf be for the NPC Standing Committee to rent an office in Hong Kong for the deputies, 'but some people would consider this as the central government lifting its presence in Hong Kong', Mr Ma said. 'On the other hand, it would not be reasonable for Hong Kong deputies to have to pay the bill, because we have no special funds or resources.' Ideally, he said, the Hong Kong government should provide office space for the deputies, similar to what mainland provincial governments do for deputies. However, a spokesman for Hong Kong's Constitutional Affairs Bureau said setting up an office in Hong Kong for NPC deputies was 'a matter for the NPC Standing Committee and the Hong Kong deputies to decide'. Mr Ma said: 'An office would not only improve the communication between deputies and residents, but strengthen the relationship between the SAR and the central government.' Citing the latest public food scare cases related to the mainland - the pig-borne disease Steptococcus suis in Sichuan and the fish chemical scare - Mr Ma said deputies could play a more positive role in dealing with these kinds of crises. 'In the case of the fish, we could negotiate with Guangdong people's congress to work on the safety of food coming to Hong Kong.' At present, no top Hong Kong officials attended NPC conferences, so there was not enough of an interchange of information, he said. 'Deputies could tell the Hong Kong government and residents what is happening on the mainland, because most of the deputies have a wide range of connections.' However, Mr Ma said, the government had not asked for the deputies' opinions. In addition to the three-week NPC meeting in Beijing every March, Hong Kong deputies visit mainland provinces twice a year, researching issues and auditing some NPC Standing Committee reports, all of which add up to about two months of full-time work. 'If we were granted a clear position by the standing committee, we would become even more willing to offer our time and energy,' Mr Wong said. 'We want the standing committee to offer us a clear opinion on the role of deputies from Hong Kong. The clarification would be a great encouragement to [us].' In May, the standing committee told provincial governments they must assist the work of the NPC. 'As to whether Hong Kong is included in this mandate or not is unknown. We hope an office can be set up soon,' Mr Wong said. Professor Peter Cheung Tsan-yin, head of the department of politics and public administration at the University of Hong Kong, agrees with the argument that deputies in Hong Kong need to enhance their function in serving the people of Hong Kong. 'Today there are many Hong Kong people working and living on the mainland,' he said. 'Increasing Hong Kong's presence there, and vice-versa, is conducive to Hong Kong people's basic interests. 'However, I'm not sure of the actual effect this kind of office [would have]. Hong Kong people have long been doubtful about whether deputies truly represent Hong Kong's interests, and are afraid of their possible intervention in the operation of Hong Kong's government. After all, deputies are not directly elected by all Hong Kong residents at this stage.' Given this situation, people tend to turn to district councillors for help. 'However, district councillors can't settle all problems either,' Mr Wong said. 'With the strengthening of links between Hong Kong and the mainland, some local problems would be better considered at a national level. 'Deputies can't promise to solve all problems, but at least we should have the courage and determination to face Hong Kong people.'