CHINA's top spokesman on Hong Kong affairs yesterday cast doubt on whether senior government officials would be allowed to serve beyond 1997, launching an outspoken attack on Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang's handling of the civil service. Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office chief Lu Ping questioned how China could allow the policy secretaries appointed in last week's reshuffle to remain in place after the handover when the Government refused to provide information on them, and the reasons for their promotion. 'We don't know their situation, their background and whether they are qualified for the job,' Mr Lu said, speaking in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi, where he is meeting with more than 50 Hong Kong affairs advisers. Mrs Chan last week promoted three local officials to policy secretary positions in the latest of a series of reshuffles which has seen most top government posts change hands in recent months. But Mr Lu warned it was far from certain that the new line-up of top civil servants would remain beyond 1997, since the Government appeared to be refusing to allow him to have direct contact with them. 'They won't let me know more about them, but they keep saying they have to remain in place after 1997,' he said. 'This is disadvantageous to the transition of the civil service.' Without mentioning Mrs Chan by name, Mr Lu attacked the Chief Secretary's recent warning that she would not allow her policy secretaries to meet him when he visits the territory next month. 'Somebody said before that, even if I went to Hong Kong, they wouldn't let me have contact with civil servants. As they won't let me talk to them, how can I understand them? How can I talk about their future after 1997?' he asked. '[She] said my contacts with other civil servants would split the team. Why should I split them? Why do I need to do so? Is this a joke?' Mrs Chan said, in a recent off-the-record briefing, that if Mr Lu refused to meet herself and the Governor, Chris Patten, during his visit, other senior government officials would be unlikely to agree to meet him. She said it would be 'inappropriate' for Mr Lu to meet policy secretaries without seeing Mr Patten and herself. The Chinese official said this amounted to a policy of 'isolating' civil servants from Beijing, which would harm prospects for a smooth transition. Mr Lu added that he hoped to talk to more civil servants about the transition, and that they could remain in office beyond the handover. His comments yesterday appeared to be an extension of earlier attacks on the Hong Kong Government for refusing to pass over the files on its top civil servants to China, including details of any foreign passports they hold. The administration argues that it does not keep such nationality details, and what information it does hold should be seen by the future Chief Executive rather than Beijing. Also speaking in Wuxi yesterday, the deputy director of the Office, Wang Fengchao, said there would not be a big upheaval in the civil service after 1997 - but specifically excluded principal officials from this promise of 'no big changes'. Under the Basic Law, Beijing will appoint the principal officials of the Special Administrative Region, on the recommendation of its Chief Executive. Mr Wang warned these appointments were nothing to do with Britain. 'There is no question of a Sino-British discussion on the matter before 1997,' he said.