THE venue for the ceremony to mark the return of sovereignty from Britain to China will top the agenda of the first expert-level talks at the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) this morning. The British team, led by JLG chief negotiator Hugh Davies, wants the venue confirmed as early as possible with the Chinese side, headed by Zhao Jihua. Government thinking is the new annex of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on the Wan Chai waterfront would be the best venue. The two sides are expected to identify other aspects of the handover that need to be addressed. The British team includes Captain Peter Melson from the British garrison, Director of Administration Richard Hoare; Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Nicholas Ng Wing-fui and senior officials from the Works Branch and Home Affairs Branch. A source close to the JLG said it would be difficult to say whether there would be disputes over the ceremony. Chinese Premier Li Peng gave further assurances to the civil service yesterday with a pledge that Beijing would not send its own mandarins to the Special Administrative Region government. China would retain the civil servants now serving for the Hong Kong Government after 1997, he said.