THE day was not particularly cold but, sitting in her Swire House office, Liu Yiu-chu felt chilly. Perhaps it was the air-conditioning, but it was more likely that the day's political climate had left her shivering. It was the day after China gave its seal of approval to the 150 Preparatory Committee members named to oversee the handover of Hong Kong. The lawyer's name was not on the list. Splashed across the front page of the South China Morning Post that day was her picture, accompanied by the caption: 'Out in the cold.' Is the party over for the long-time pro-China lawyer turned staunch Beijing critic? Was 1995 annus horribilis for the most daring local deputy of the National People's Congress (NPC)? Her friends say Liu is a woman of surprises; she is certainly a maverick and almost always emotional. She made, in her words, a stunning entrance to the NPC by refusing to vote for most of its presidium candidates in 1988. Now, she says, if she is sacked from China's parliament, she can make a stunning exit. Her enemies dismiss her as simply mad. Even the media has for some time portrayed her as an eccentric, if not crazed, woman. And Liu often lives up to that stereotype. Her nickname is Dotty. (Liu, being the fourth child in the family, was given the name Dorothy because it starts with D. For her father, a respected doctor, it was all alphabetical order when choosing English names for his six children.) Her favourite pastimes are writing poetry, playing the piano and 'trying to sing Phantom Of The Opera without getting too out of tune'. Liu gained notoriety for her performance at the Hong Kong Journalists' Association ball, when she 'went absolutely bonkers' by grabbing the microphone and lambasting the guest-of-honour, Chris Patten. For a long time after that the solicitor was treated as a joke in political circles. Senior government officials passed light-hearted comment about how there would be a stampede to leave Lower Albert Road if she was made chief executive of the Special Administrative Region government. There was also talk about how Xinhua officials had dubbed her an 'unguided missile in pink' because of her readiness to criticise Beijing policy. But if she flipped out earlier, she is calm now. It is true that she still punctuates her rapid-fire, razor-sharp speech with squeaks and schoolgirlish giggles that sit oddly with a 62-year-old. It is also true that TV news editors still need to take great care editing out badly-timed laughs when commenting on sombre topics, such as the sentencing of Wei Jingsheng. But they need her comment all the same. Jimmy McGregor, who has known Liu for more than 30 years, and whose wife was a classmate at St Stephen's College, calls her a nonconformist. 'In class, she was also very much pro-China, which was not a popular way to be in the late 1940s and early 1950s. 'She has never altered her position. I was listening 30 years ago to the same views she expresses today,' he said. 'Loopy? No. She gets carried away. She is emotional, not loopy. Her emotions sometimes appear off-centre. 'She strikes people as disorganised, unnecessarily outspoken, sometimes even rude. But when that's the case she is usually expressing a strongly felt view.' McGregor is convinced Liu will be unhappy with China's promotion of people she regards as having had 'not one foot, but two feet in the colonial camp'. 'My guess is she feels let down. She feels China has embraced the unembraceable, former colonial supporters who have taken U-turns. She feels unworthy people are being courted. I am sure she feels unhappy.' According to Liu, the party is certainly over. On the desk of her small office is the memento of what she calls the 'beginning of the end'. It is a photocopied summary of a speech which she, as a local deputy of the NPC, gave in 1990 during a group discussion among Hong Kong and Macau delegates. She said it was an important speech and has told her secretary to make more copies so she can distribute it to those who are yet to be convinced she has wanted a break for some time. 'The writing has been on the wall for a long time. I have been trying very hard to ease off in a friendlier way. 'I made all these points. You must understand I was ready to go then. I have no illusions. 'And it was me who put the writing on the wall.' It was three days before the Basic Law was passed and less than a year after the Tiananmen massacre that Liu decided to challenge the decision of the NPC standing committee to sack a member, Hu Jiwei, for allegedly taking part in the counter-revolutionary rebellion. Then she hinted it was lawful for Hu, a former chief editor of the People's Daily, to call an emergency meeting in May 1989 to re-examine the necessity of imposing martial law in Beijing. She pleaded then 'for the sake of stability' for the Communist Party to avoid letting political struggle influence the country as a whole, and solve internal problems in a calm and moderate way. A year later in Beijing, in a display of remarkable courage, she disrupted a group session during the NPC by observing a lone, one-minute silence 'for the soldiers, the students, the innocent civilians and passers-by who were on the streets, who died or who were hurt'. 'I knew in 1990, if they held on so tight to the . . . June 4 complex, the party was over. The working relationship was over. 'I slowly withdrew my involvement and planned my exit. I played my card deliberately like that. What has happened is my planned course . . . because I had raised hell. 'This is my stance,' she said, pointing to the photocopied speech. 'This is not a slip of the tongue.' Liu said she had not expected 'any real participation in any of the work organised by any of those in power in mainland China' from the moment she insisted her 1990 speech be put on record. But she did agree in 1992 to serve another five-year term in the NPC. 'Chris Patten arrived in Hong Kong that year. I didn't really want to serve another term in the NPC but the situation was so bad. 'When it's a question of conflict between Britain and China, I have made it clear I will, without reservation, always be on China's side. 'When Chris Patten came and brought this upheaval in the political system, I felt obliged to stay put for a bit longer and not cause too much disturbance' because, according to the Brit-basher, 'justice is always on the Chinese side'. She said she must be '100 per cent on the Chinese side in order to work for the end of colonial rule'. Liu has long regarded the colonial power with undisguised contempt and considered it an 'insult' to be favoured by the Hong Kong Government. 'To be honoured by it,' she growls, 'you must have done something.' The nationalism and the anti-colonialism in Liu is deep-rooted. Liu's late father, Dr Liu Yan-tak, was a student at Guangzhou's Lingnan College, a nurturing ground for nationalists in the pre-war years. During the Japanese occupation, he took the family to China, snubbing the Japanese, who had wanted him to be a leader of the community. When his British friends tried to persuade him to help them resume colonial rule after the war, he broke with them. But it was not only the British he broke with. During the 1967 riots, her father even broke with the Chinese, Liu said. 'My father helped to stabilise the situation by standing up to the more leftist members of the party in Hong Kong. He quarrelled and broke up with them for 10 years, until the Gang of Four was brought down. 'People said I was a chip off the old block. During the leftist movement, I too was summoned to the Bank of China, and was given a Mao Zedong red book. I never went out to wave the little red book. 'My father said they should not organise any strikes. He objected because that would paralyse the economy and hurt Hong Kong. 'They didn't listen to him. They put bombs all over the place, and when a little girl was hurt I raised hell. They criticised me and said I was not a firm patriot. I said, 'I am a patriot, but not a terrorist'.' Liu said she never felt it was important to be well thought of by the powers-that-be. 'I am ready to break up with anybody at anytime until and unless they change their ways,' she said. So how does she expect the Chinese authorities to change theirs? 'Let people speak their minds at least. 'I will never give up speaking the truth just to please them. I will continue to speak the truth . . . This is out of patriotism.' Liu said she did not feel it appropriate to be appointed to the Preparatory Committee because the appointment system had to be removed. 'And as delegates of the NPC, we already have the power, function, channel and procedure for expressing our opinions. And still they don't listen to us, so what is the point of appointing us to any of these committees? 'I am good enough as an elected delegate to the NPC. 'I have the power given by the law to monitor the committee's work, until and unless my term finishes, probably at the end of 1997,' she said. Will she serve another term? 'I don't think so. They are not tolerant enough. Not only are they not tolerant enough, they are also vindictive,' she said. However, Liu said she will not stop speaking her mind after 1997, 'particularly when the situation becomes so bad people dare not speak up'. 'A lot of things will be so bad, there will be no one who will dare say anything and people will say let's find Liu Yiu-chu.' Liu said she has considered retiring after she turned 60. She has a home in San Francisco, where she hopes to retire to and where her son lives. 'So much of what people see as part of me was my father's influence. 'He thought little of wealth and power but a lot of professional success. I became a lawyer. But there are a lot of beautiful sweet things in life I have forgone because I have had to live up to my father's expectations. My father has died. I can now spend my life doing things I want to do, not things I have been trapped into doing.' Liu did not regard 1995 as the low point in her political life. Rather it was the immediate aftermath of June 4, when she felt misunderstood over her support for China's right to impose martial law. She justifies it as a constitutionally correct decision to maintain law and order, which has nothing to do with the later use of unacceptable excessive force. 'Then I decided to stay away for a while. 'I just worked and worked and put the money in the bank. But then I had more time, and I used my savings to buy shares. I made a good fortune. So the lowest point of my public life was also the highest point of my financial life. 'If I had to choose, I would always follow my own conscience and strive to live up to my principles because when you work honestly you will be recognised, not necessarily by the people in power but by people I respect. You are bound to get that when you are honest. 'That kind of recognition I need very much.'