PROOF has reached us that the august and upright members of the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC) cannot be influenced, led astray or otherwise induced to follow anything but their own principles. Professor Woo Chia-wei made this clear at a dinner the other night in the combative presence of former PWC colleague and National People's Congress member Liu Yiu-chu, unionist Lau Chin-shek and legislator Andrew Wong, among others. Miss Liu, who likes to tease PWC members (and anyone else who crosses her path) with as little mercy as possible, pointedly asked the Vice Chancellor of the University of Science and Technology whether he really thought the establishment of a provisional legislature was the best option for the period immediately after the handover of sovereignty. But hadn't he read the criticisms in all the newspapers? Hadn't he even read her article on the subject? Didn't he try to gauge public opinion from the media? Didn't he read newspapers at all? Finally the professor could take it no longer. 'Madam,' he retorted, 'If I spent my time reading every column in every newspaper I wouldn't be able to do any work.' That explains everything. LEGISLATOR Anna Wu is less than pleased. First she is denied access to information on herself because Security Branch has got it in a file marked 'confidential'. Then she's denied access to the same information, because security branch hasn't got it any more. The Branch may have undergone a radical face-lift with the appointment of Peter Lai as Hong Kong's first ethnic Chinese Secretary for Security. But the surgery really was just cosmetic. To judge by Mr Lai's first foray into the arcane world of Legislative Council written questions and answers, he is keen to carry on where Alistair Asprey left off. In answer to a question by Ms Wu, he revealed that files the Government once denied existed, and which his predecessor said were 'not within my recollection' had now been destroyed. Last summer, Mr Asprey eventually admitted the Government's furtive monitoring of unions and lobbying groups in the late 1970s and early 1980s through the secretive Standing Committee on Pressure Groups (SCOPG). This he said had been 'part of the Government's efforts to monitor and assess public opinion and aspirations'. 'They were not,' he wrote, 'political investigations.' Considering that as long ago as 1981 the contents of the file on Ms Wu and the Hong Kong Observers (HKO) had been leaked to the press and had proved highly political, this seemed less than frank. Back shot Mrs Wu with a string of questions, including those about SCOPG's terms of reference, its membership, which parties were 'selected for surveillance', whether there were any reports on their activities and if the parties concerned could have access to the reports on themselves? Um, well, no actually . . . said Mr Lai, after denying groups had been singled out for surveillance. We haven't got the reports any more. 'All SCOPG files containing assessments and reports have been destroyed.' Ms Wu was scathing. 'Well if the reports have been destroyed,' she said, 'then how do they know they weren't political?' The very least the Government should have done, she said, was inform people files on them existed and allowed them to see the contents. It's a bit of a conundrum, isn't it? If you don't know they've got it, and they don't tell you they've destroyed it, then you don't know they have not destroyed the other things you don't know they've got on you, do you? NOT political? A copy of an early SCOPG report which has fallen open on From the Corridors' desk (and if we've got one, you can assume there are other copies) makes the general point that while 'at present . . . pressure groups are generally not subversive, the potential for subversion always exists'. And in the specific report on the Observers, we find the assessment: 'Whatever its real motives are, the HKO does not yet have a solid enough base to be really actually subversive.' Interesting word that: 'subversive'. Haven't we been led to believe the Common Law does not have a definition of subversion? Wasn't that why there had to be further discussion on the Basic Law's call for legislation to outlaw it? Well, if it's not a legal assessment in the SCOPG context, it must be a political assessment. We rest our case. HOT on the heels of a Republican leader referring to a homosexual colleague as 'Barney Fag', comes the tale of Alaskan Congressman Ted Stevens, whose office was forced to apologise for another politically incorrect 'slip of the tongue'. Discussing the possibilities of repealing an obscure domestic trade law, Mr Stevens remarked: 'I don't think there's a Chinaman's chance.' Mr Stevens found himself accused of making a racial slur. The phrase orginates from the days when Californians would exploit Chinese immigrants to slave away at gold seams they didn't think would end up producing any goodies. 'It is something he heard when he was in California as a child,' said a Stevens spokesperson, apparently believing such things would never have been picked up in Alaska. Mr Stevens 'had not meant anything derogatory'.