BRITISH Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind is to seek China's assurance that the Preparatory Committee will not become a second power centre in the territory. Sources say London has welcomed the pledges made by senior Chinese officials earlier that the committee will not undermine the administration's authority. But Mr Rifkind, who will visit Beijing from January 9 to 11, is expected to raise concerns again when he meets senior officials. The British Government announced yesterday Mr Rifkind would pay a four-day visit to the territory before the Beijing trip, the first by a British foreign secretary since Douglas Hurd in 1993. Sources said Mr Rifkind would emphasis the willingness of the British Government to co-operate with the powerful committee. The trip will come less than two weeks after China is scheduled to announce the committee's composition. The sources said Mr Rifkind would also underline the significance of speeding up the work of the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) and review progress of the agreements reached between him and his Chinese counterpart Qian Qichen in London. A vice-director of Xinhua (the New China News Agency), Zhang Junsheng, said improving co-operation through Mr Rifkind's visit depended on Britain. Chinese officials have repeatedly attacked the Governor, Chris Patten, for creating disputes in the transitional period. A senior official in Beijing hinted yesterday the Governor would not have a role to play in the handover ceremony, claiming he did not represent London. Wang Guisheng, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Director under the Foreign Ministry, said the handover ceremony was a matter between the two sovereigns. Mr Zhang said 'no one knows how the ceremony will take place, nor who can join at this stage'. The matter was still under discussion at the JLG, he said. A source close to the JLG dismissed the remarks as 'stupid'. It was too early to say who would represent the British Government, he said, but stressed that the Governor would have a role.