THE Commander of the British Forces in Hong Kong said yesterday the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) should have a small deployment in the territory before 1997. But Major-General Bryan Dutton said no decision had been made between Britain and China on the issue. 'I think it's actually important that for a short time the PLA has small parties here,' he said. 'You can't just walk in and take over and make everything work,' General Dutton said. 'You send in recce parties, which are very few, two and three guys here, two and three guys there, and go and see what the problem is . . . They are going to stay for a while and then go away. 'And then you send in an advanced party, and you're talking about relatively small figures again . . . And their job is to take over the equipment, to take over the buildings and everything else and to prepare a reception for the main body.' But he stressed the team should not be more than 100 officers, and should be confined to technical experts. General Dutton said: 'Now the length of time, and the size of the parties and everything else is all subject to negotiation between us and the Chinese and will now take place through the Joint Liaison Group over the coming months. We haven't reached a decision yet.' Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang yesterday also reiterated that the British side would discuss the military arrangements with Beijing through the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group. Beijing has not disclosed the size or other details of its military presence in the post-1997 Special Administrative Region, but the garrison seems likely to comprise some 8,000 elite troops - similar to the size of the British garrison before its phased withdrawal.