A defiant Anson Chan Fang On-sang yesterday shrugged off fears she may not be able to serve beyond the handover unless she publicly endorses the provisional legislature. Civil service morale was dented this week when Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office deputy director Chen Ziying said principal officials must support the provisional legislature if they were to serve the Special Administrative Region government. But Mrs Chan, the Chief Secretary, reiterated her objections to the body, saying its establishment was 'bound to cause confusion and uncertainty'. The Legislative Council had been 'elected in an open and fair manner', she said. The high voter turnout in last September's election proved the community's support for the electoral arrangements. 'Hong Kong's interests will be best served by allowing this current Legco to serve its full four-year term,' said Mrs Chan. There was no justification for a provisional legislature. China must explain why it was needed and how it was compatible with the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. The civil service was crucial to maintaining good governance and securing a smooth transition. 'It can only do so if it remains politically neutral and acts in accordance with the law. The civil service is loyal to its leaders and loyal to the community it serves. This is so now and it will be after 1997,' she said. However, there were signs yesterday that Beijing may not fully support Mr Chen's remarks. Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang said the Chinese Government would welcome the participation of Hong Kong officials in the post-handover government. Avoiding mention of the provisional legislature, Mr Shen said the Basic Law laid down the criteria for principal officials. 'The most important criterion is to see whether they support the Basic Law and whether they love the motherland and Hong Kong,' he said. The Preparatory Committee was studying the issue of incumbent officials who would be named by the chief executive as part of his team of top officials. He also dismissed fears there would be a 'vacuum' if officials had to resign from the current administration to join the SAR team-designate. Yesterday's sparring on the issue came as Britain's senior Joint Liaison Group spokesman reported that progress on the handover ceremony had ground to a halt. Hugh Davies, the senior representative on the British team, said: 'This is not an easy discussion and we are having difficulties. 'I hope very much that with goodwill on both sides we will be able to deliver the ceremony on July 1, 1997 which will satisfy the aspirations of Hong Kong and international communities.' However, he would not say whether Mr Chen's loyalty for jobs comments had effected negotiations. Zhao Jihua , the senior representative of the Chinese side, said the differences and difficulties which arose were very complicated, but also declined to disclose the details.