CIVIL Service Secretary Michael Sze Cho-cheung has vowed to take the initiative in promoting the use of Chinese in the administration in the run-up to 1997. He admitted that the civil service lagged behind society in the use of Chinese, but maintained that it would not become a 'nationality issue' in the administration. 'Hong Kong is an international city. We have to maintain its viability and competitiveness so that we can deal with others in both Chinese and English. 'But practical steps must be taken in the use of Chinese to keep abreast of the society,' Mr Sze said. Expatriate staff on permanent terms should take training courses in Chinese to boost communication with the society, Mr Sze said. 'It's OK if they [expatriates] can't speak Chinese under British rule. It might hurt national feelings if they know nothing about it after 1997.' He said directorate-level officers and those who need to deal with Chinese officials should also learn Putonghua. From next year, most civil service recruits will have to gain a pass in both Chinese and English in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education examination, he said. The civil service chief said Her Majesty's Overseas Service (HMOCS) staff would have to take Chinese language courses if they wanted to serve beyond the handover date. About 470 HMOCS officials will be below retirement age in 1997.