AN advance party of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is expected to work with the British military in Hong Kong months before the changeover, sources said yesterday. Considerations are being given to a gradual introduction of the PLA into Hong Kong rather than the entire garrison moving in following the official handover. A delegation of 12 Chinese defence officials toured some of the 15 sites the PLA is due to inherit in late March 1997, including the Prince of Wales Barracks in Central and Stanley Fort. While it is not the first visit by defence officials to the territory, it is the first time they have viewed many of the sites in detail and will be the prelude to more extensive visits agreed by the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG) in the run-up to 1997. An advance party would mean the PLA would be working closely with the British Army, including the Black Watch, currently on tour in Northern Ireland, which is due to return to the territory about four months before the changeover. Garrison public relations director Roger Goodwin said there had been no discussions with the PLA on the details of handing over the sites since the signing of the Defence Lands Agreement. 'There have been absolutely no discussions on such subjects,' he said. 'There has been no discussion about an advance party.' However, informal discussions would have been likely during recent visits. Sources said it made sense for the PLA to be gradually introduced to the territory as the British Garrison made its withdrawal. The Commander British Forces, Major-General Bryan Dutton, is believed to be keen to start talks with the PLA about the final handover, but political tensions between Hong Kong and China have muddied the waters. Sources said the delegation that visited six weeks ago was very impressed with Stanley Fort, particularly its commercial possibilities. Rents at the former army base on Stanley Peninsula are pulling in millions of dollars for the Government. About 300 of the 320 flats and houses are occupied, all on leases due to expire on January 31, 1997. The JLG took seven years to thrash out the Defence Lands Agreement and pressed for the inclusion of a passage stating the sites handed over to the PLA would be used solely for 'defence purposes'. However, no definition of defence purposes is contained in the agreement, leaving wide scope for its interpretation by the PLA, which is heavily involved in commerce because of its need to be self-funding.