Beijing warned pan-democrats yesterday that resigning from Legco to fight by-elections in the quest for universal suffrage would be a 'blatant challenge' to the Basic Law and the central government's authority. Pan-democrats see the by-elections - one in each of the five geographical constituencies - as a referendum on government plans for democratisation and the future of functional constituencies, but Beijing said that any 'so-called referendum' would be inconsistent with the city's legal status. Not only that, it would be 'fundamentally against' the Basic Law and the 2007 decisions of the nation's top legislature about when universal suffrage can be introduced. The warning came from the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. Such a campaign would only 'provoke disputes and damage hard-earned achievements. This is not what the people of Hong Kong want to see,' it added. The statement was broadcast on the mainland by CCTV. In similar remarks carried by Xinhua, Beijing's liaison office in the city said the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office statement represented the official view of the central government. The office praised Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for telling the Legislative Council on Thursday that there was no legal basis for a referendum. The statements appeared to be an attempt to dissuade people from joining the referendum campaign, but pan-democrats who support the plan were bemused by what seemed to be an acknowledgement that their campaign, and the by-election results, would be a legitimate representation of the will of the people. The Democratic Party opted out of the by-elections in part because it did not think the government or the central authorities would recognise them as having the effect of a referendum. 'This shows we're pressing the right buttons,' said Wong Yuk-man, chairman of the League of Social Democrats. Three of its members and two from the Civic Party plan to quit their seats this month. Dr James Sung Lap-kung, a City University political analyst, said the statements would have been made after careful consideration. Yesterday's statement from Beijing said Hong Kong had no authority to launch a referendum. But Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said: 'Whatever is not prohibited by law is perfectly legal.' Leung Po-shan, protesting outside Legco yesterday against funding for an express rail line to Guangzhou, said the statements amounted to threats and extra pressure on the people of Hong Kong, which she feared would spark even greater resistance. 'Do they want to see us go down the path of Taiwan?' she said. Wong Kwok-kin a lawmaker from the Beijing-friendly Federation of Trade Unions, said pan-democrats should consider this a warning. A Hong Kong government spokesman said the statement showed the central authorities were seriously concerned. Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, an NPC Standing Committee member and former Legco president, said Beijing was concerned the campaign would delude people into believing referendums were a right. The chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Tam Yiu-chung, said referendums had been specifically ruled out by the Basic Law's drafters. 'Do you think the people of Hong Kong can decide political change for themselves?' he said.