A former mainland official in charge of Hong Kong affairs has admitted Beijing focused on the concerns of tycoons in the lead-up to the handover and paid too little attention to the middle-class and grass-roots sectors. Lu Ping , who retired as director of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office shortly after the handover, told i-Cable News that Beijing had been anxious to maintain the confidence of tycoons. By heading off the potential for a massive outflow of investments from Hong Kong, Beijing hoped to dispel jitters in the community at large. The tilt in Beijing's Hong Kong policy towards the business sector's interests, if not the tycoons, has been institutionalised in the political structure of the Basic Law. Behind the scenes, the political influence of big players in the business sector has been more profound. For instance, it is widely believed prominent business figures have been regularly consulted by state leaders and top mainland officials on Hong Kong issues. Rumour has it that sharp criticism by business figures of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa was instrumental in his downfall in 2005. As in many other societies, it may seem natural that big business players have power and influence. And on the face of it, Mr Lu was stating the obvious when he said policy was tilted towards the business sector at a turbulent time. It is equally clear, however, that the winds of change are blowing strongly now. Pro-Beijing figures have observed there have been not-so-subtle changes in Beijing's approach towards tycoons under the leadership of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao . They point out there have been fewer sessions between the two leaders and prominent tycoons than under Jiang Zemin . Local pro-Beijing figures have attributed this to the differences between the working styles and personalities of Mr Jiang and Mr Hu. The simple truth, perhaps, is that times have changed. The days of big business players having influence behind the scenes are gone. The Hu-Wen administration has made social harmony its priority at a time when rapid economic growth has triggered sharp social disputes. With past Hong Kong administrations having been accused of colluding with property tycoons, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen pledged to lead a government for all after his March re-election. Given the government is increasingly vulnerable to swings in public opinion, conflict would follow if it were seen to be favouring business interests. There are concerns the pendulum is now swinging to the other extreme, with the government contemplating policies the business sector criticises as damaging to the commercial environment. The sector has expressed concerns over the possibility of the government legislating for a minimum wage and about the administration's moves to promote social enterprises. Officials admit they are being extra-cautious in their handling of matters affecting business and commercial interests, in view of the depth of scepticism about government-business relations. Admittedly, it is a coincidence that sons and daughters of prominent Hong Kong businessmen inaugurated the Hundred People Society a few weeks before Mr Lu spoke. The charity aims to promote understanding among young people about China's development. It is too early to tell whether it will evolve into a major force, yet it seems clear that there is a greater awareness among big business, and perhaps in Beijing, of the importance of this generation of business leaders engaging society more. If that is the shape of things to come, it will be of vital importance to the development of representative democracy in Hong Kong.