Central government leaders trod cautiously this week to ensure that the visits of two major government-friendly political parties came off without a fuss at what is a sensitive time, given the ongoing debates about politics and tax in Hong Kong. Chen Zuoer , deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, refrained from weighing into the debate over a goods and services tax, despite the visiting Liberal Party's strong opposition to such a levy. And Vice-President Zeng Qinghong was non-committal on Liberal delegates' call for the creation of a ruling coalition in Hong Kong, even though the notion of power-sharing has touched the most sensitive nerve of the ruling Communist Party. Mr Zeng was just as cautious when he met members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong on Tuesday. He did not wade into the debate over constitutional reform, or address the case of Ching Cheong, the Hong Kong journalist jailed by a Beijing court this month for spying for Taiwan. Rather, he urged the DAB to further enhance its 'internal quality' and establish its 'external image'. At a separate meeting, the Communist Party's united-front work chief, Liu Yandong , called on the DAB to foster a 'constructive, interactive relationship' with the government. Their sensitive handling of burning issues is indicative of the acute awareness in Beijing of the vulnerability of Hong Kong at a time of political change. Analysts have argued the Liberals' strong opposition to a GST can be explained by their keenness to please their constituents in the business sector ahead of December's Election Committee poll. The Liberals and other parties, including the DAB, hope to win more seats on the Election Committee in the belief this will give them more clout to negotiate a bigger say in shaping policies from the next administration. Given Beijing's obsession with strong, executive-led government and its fears about party politics, it is unlikely to be receptive to the idea of a Hong Kong administration sharing power with political parties, even those deemed friendly. That said, Beijing is aware of its pivotal role in moderating the frictions between the government and these like-minded parties to ensure effective governance. But central government officials will not step in publicly to settle rows. They will try to twist arms behind the scenes. That is because they well understand that more sophisticated, sensitive management of the relationship with the Beijing-friendly parties works better in a changing political landscape.