The powerful Communist Party body that oversees law enforcement on the mainland has accused Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, of “harbouring criminals”, after he called on the authorities to offer young people an olive branch amid the ongoing anti-government protests.

In a Weibo post, the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission – which comes under the Central Committee that comprises of the party’s top leaders – says Li is not thinking of what’s good for Hong Kong if he advocates showing mercy to law-breaking protesters, and he would have the city slip into an abyss.

The commission questions whether Hong Kong’s land-hoarding property developers would “offer a way out to young people”, as the tycoon had suggested the government should do.

The post also says many young people in Hong Kong are angry because of the sky-high property prices that developers benefit from.

Li had made his comments to a small group of people during a visit to a monastery in Tai Po last Sunday, but video footage of him speaking was later widely shared online.

He had also warned that the ongoing protests are presenting Hong Kong with its biggest challenge since the Second World War and said he hoped that young people would also “look at the bigger picture”.

In a statement issued on Li’s behalf on Friday, a spokesman said the billionaire regretted that his remarks had been misinterpreted but he is used to receiving such unnecessary criticism.

He said showing tolerance does not mean connivance or ignoring the law, and stressed that no form of violence is ever acceptable.