PREPARATORY COMMITTEE DETAILS of the new liaison mechanism between the Government and the powerful China-appointed Preparatory Committee had been discussed between Chinese Vice-Premier Qian Qichen and the former British foreign secretary, Douglas Hurd, in April, it emerged last night. The summit was part of the series of informal contacts between the two sides on the sensitive issue, first floated by Governor Chris Patten in his Policy Address last October. The British thinking is that there should be a 'two-layered' mechanism on the transitional talks. In addition to the Joint Liaison Group (JLG), there should be a more direct channel between the Government and the Preparatory Committee. A 'docking mechanism' was needed for the Government and the Preparatory Committee to transport and clear information, an informed source said. Although it would be logical for the mechanism be set up under the Constitutional Affairs Branch, the source said nothing had been finally decided. 'But apparently, the Chinese have been happy with the outline. Details of how the office operates need to be thrashed out.' The source said the British side was still hoping to get more details of the Preparatory Committee such as its terms of reference and key personnel. Details of the future co-operation with the Preparatory Committee are expected to be hammered out at the Joint Liaison Group channel. Speaking in Hong Kong, Chinese JLG leader, Zhao Jihua, said the form of co-operation with the Preparatory Committee should be sorted out soon as it had to be in place early next year. But he had reservations on the areas in which Britain could be involved. 'We should make it very clear in which areas the two sides can co-operate, and which is the business of China itself,' Mr Zhao elaborated. Not all subjects in the Preparatory Committee could be worked on together, he added, as co-operation had to depend on its nature and aspects. Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Nicholas Ng Wing-fui said the Government had yet to have concrete proposals on how Britain could help the Preparatory Committee. Further development could not be made until discussions between Britain and China took place, he said. Mr Zhao said it would be much easier for the JLG to get its work done if the two foreign ministers could reach agreement on Hong Kong issues in principle. The two sides had to work out all questions that related to the smooth transition, prosperity and stability of Hong Kong as soon as possible based on a pragmatic spirit, he added.