SENIOR Chinese official Lu Ping yesterday kicked off a week-long visit with a dispute over the failure to arrange a long-awaited meeting with the Chief Secretary, Anson Chan Fang On-sang. He said he felt 'sad' that Mrs Chan was not able to accept his offer to treat her to a meal in Zhuhai at the end of his Hong Kong and Macau trip. Government spokesman Kerry McGlynn said Mrs Chan was delighted to be invited to China, but it was impossible for her to drop a planned trip to Britain for the get-together in Zhuhai. But he said the Government would pursue the 'positive' invitation for Mrs Chan to go to the mainland, hopefully to Beijing. He believed the invitation to be the first since she became the first Chinese Chief Secretary in late 1993. Mrs Chan, who took a rare day's sick leave yesterday, has repeatedly mentioned her eagerness to visit China. 'The ice seems to have been broken,' Mr McGlynn said. Governor Chris Patten last month wrote to Mr Lu, the Director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, about meetings with him and Mrs Chan during this visit, the first since May last year. Mrs Chan had proposed two days this week for Mr Lu to go to her official home, Victoria House, for a chat with various policy heads. Mr Lu sent a verbal reply through the British Embassy in Beijing that he wanted a meeting in Zhuhai on May 28. Beijing wanted the meeting 'low key, confidential and with no publicity', a source said. Shortly after arriving at Xinhua's (the New China News Agency's) Stanley villa, Mr Lu said: 'I promised to treat her to a meal after visiting Macau. However, she replied she had no time to do so. I hope she can get some time to meet me in the future. 'We are not going to meet in Hong Kong as my itinerary was drafted months ago and is packed. I really cannot add one more meeting to my diary,' he said. He declined to comment on whether the Government was being sincere in trying to arrange the meeting, but pointed out Mrs Chan thought the timing was inappropriate even though she had said she was willing to change her diary at any time. 'Could other government officials come to lunch with me if Mrs Chan cannot? I'd welcome them,' he said, without saying whether he meant Zhuhai or Thursday's lunch speech at a seminar on the territory's future development as a monetary centre. Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive Joseph Yam Chi-kong, Secretary for the Treasury Kwong Ki-chi and the Secretary for Financial Services-designate Raphael Hui Si-yan have been invited to attend. Mr McGlynn queried why Mr Lu would have time to meet other senior officials, but not Mr Patten and Mrs Chan. He said other policy secretaries would not be going to Zhuhai as 'they go as a team with the Chief Secretary as the leader'. But the Government would 'build on' Mr Lu's offer and try for a meeting in Beijing for Mrs Chan and the policy secretaries. Mrs Chan's upcoming London trip was arranged more than six months ago, he said. She was to brief British businessmen on May 25 and speak at a Dragon Boat Dinner organised by the Hong Kong Association. 'She has made clear that she welcomed a meeting in China with Director Lu as soon as that could be arranged,' he said. Mr Lu is scheduled to attend separate meetings of the Preliminary Working Committee's political and economic affairs sub-group beginning today. His itinerary includes meetings with civil service unions, foreign diplomats, Hong Kong affairs advisers, district affairs advisers and local deputies of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Mr Lu said the ban on officials having formal meetings with the Preliminary Working Committee should be lifted. 'The British side should not simply pay lip service to co-operation. They should take concrete action. Don't put up any more show,' he said.