Hong Kong activists `astounded` by Chinese official`s comment

 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have expressed their anger after it emerged that a Chinese official dismissed their protest movement in a blunt comment last month. 

Hong Kong: Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have expressed their anger after it emerged that a Chinese official dismissed their protest movement in a blunt comment last month. 

"The fact that you are alive shows the country`s civility and inclusiveness," Zhang Xiaoming, the director of China`s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, was cited as saying by three people who attended a meeting with him late August.

The meeting was part of a series of talks between Zhang and the city`s pro-democracy lawmakers that took place shortly before China crushed activists` hopes for genuine democracy when it announced that the city`s next leader would be vetted by Beijing.

"I was astounded", one of the people who attended the meeting told AFP Thursday. 

"He was dead serious, it was no joke," he added.

The Chinese Liaison Office declined to comment on Zhang`s remarks when contacted by AFP.

"It`s really very ridiculous for a mainland official to say things like that," Democratic Party chairperson Emily Lau told AFP on Thursday.

"We`ve been banned from travelling to the mainland for more than two decades so now they say that the fact that you`re still alive you should count your blessings. That`s just crazy," she said.

Most pro-democracy activists in the southern Chinese city are not allowed to travel mainland China. 

Public discontent has been growing in Hong Kong over increased political interference and the perceived cosy relationship between the city`s powerful business elite and Beijing.

A coalition of pro-democracy groups, led by Occupy Central, have vowed to usher in a new "era of civil disobedience" against Beijing`s decision to tightly control the next leadership vote, calling on followers to block major thoroughfares in the city`s financial district.

The pro-democracy movement has struggled to garner mass support, and recently even senior movement leaders have stepped back from their more shrill rhetoric and questioned their ability to influence Beijing. 

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China on July 1, 1997 under a "one country, two systems" agreement which allows civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including free speech and the right to protest.