CHINA may not take kindly to being lectured by Governor Chris Patten. Yet, in this case, it would be wise to listen to his advice. For Mr Patten was merely stating the obvious, in RTHK's Letter to Hong Kong yesterday, when he warned that the territory's continuing prosperity can best be assured by Beijing beginning a dialogue with the winners of last month's Legislative Council polls. That is not simply because the freely-elected representatives of the people of Hong Kong deserve to be treated with some respect. A far more fundamental reason is that it will be much more difficult to achieve a smooth transition if the future sovereign power continues to shun all contact with those who have proved they reflect the views of the majority of the local population. Beijing may insist it already has a dialogue with legislators. But that is only with those, such as the Liberal Party and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, who can be trusted not to stray too far from what China wants to hear. Anyone who might offer more unpalatable advice remains excluded, with the sole exception of one fringe group, the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood. There is no good reason why this should be so. More than six years after the event, mainland leaders should be able to do what much of Hong Kong has long since done, and put the events of June 4, 1989 in the past. Rather than continue to hold a grudge against them, Beijing should be prepared to forget how Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming and his colleagues campaigned against the military crackdown, especially now that they have resigned from the positions they used to hold in the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China. Even if Beijing cannot immediately bring itself to take such a step, the least it could do is resume contacts with those it used to talk to: such as legislator and Democratic Party Vice-Chairman Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, who enjoyed close relations with mainland officials until he led Meeting Point into a merger with the United Democrats last year. Equally, ideological hang-ups are no excuse for refusing to talk to like-minded independents, such as legislators Christine Loh Kung-wai and Emily Lau Wai-hing, who played no real role in the June 4 protests and are not even members of the Democratic Party. But whatever circuitous and face-saving means are needed to begin such a dialogue, its ultimate goal must be for Beijing to agree to contacts with all leaders of the democratic camp, including Mr Lee. Some mainland officials have already privately hinted they might be prepared to move in this direction, and the sooner this is stated in public the better for Hong Kong.