THE Government's Protocol Office is expected to survive the handover although its functions will change.
The three-member unit is headed by former RAF officer Vivian Warrington, who has been director since 1988.
Mr Warrington will leave at the handover, but the two other members are locals.
A government spokesman said: 'There is no reason to suppose that the Special Administrative Region [SAR] government will not need a protocol division after July 1, 1997.
'But the precise duties will be a matter for the SAR government,' the spokesman said.
A government source said the division would still have a role to play after June next year.
The office's main job is to maintain day-to-day liaison with the consular corps.
Since Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy a high degree of autonomy, there is no reason to believe the local office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry would take over protocol affairs, said the source, who admitted the division's portfolio would change.
Apart from liaising with consular corps, the office is also responsible for preparing honours lists, arranging reception for visiting heads of state and royal families, organising remembrance day ceremonies and royal garden parties and looking after armorial bearings and flags.
The division is also involved in preparing for the handover ceremony.
With Hong Kong reverting to Chinese rule, most of these functions will no longer be needed and the source said a local successor could be named by the end of this year.
Preparatory Committee member, Professor Lau Siu-kai, said the future SAR government would still need someone to take care of protocol.
He said not everything related to foreign countries should be handled by the local office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The future administration will still have to invite representatives from consulates to functions, he suggested.
And Professor Lau also predicted that the protocol officer would be expected to receive visiting central government leaders or those from the provinces.