People's Liberation Army soldiers will operate in Hong Kong before the handover, the Commander British Forces revealed yesterday. Major-General Bryan Dutton said it was common sense for a 'very small number' to arrive so they knew what was where. But he said the advance parties would only be doing 'practical, administrative' jobs to ensure the barracks continued to run smoothly. He would not speculate on when the first batch might arrive because the timetable was still being negotiated through the Joint Liaison Group. General Dutton was announcing the final phase of the winding down of the 3,250-strong garrison which begins today with the disbanding of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers unit. In November, the Gurkhas will be replaced by the 1st Battalion Staffordshire Regiment, followed by the Black Watch next February. By mid-June, the Prince of Wales Barracks will be the only British military installation left in Hong Kong. General Dutton said the key issue of which laws would apply to PLA soldiers based in Hong Kong had still not been decided. But he was satisfied Major-General Liu Zhenwu , Hong Kong's future PLA leader, understood the public concern and importance of clarifying the legal position. General Dutton said he was pleased with the 'very straightforward, professional relationship' the two garrisons had established. 'They are certainly determined to be sensitive to the differences of Hong Kong and determined to make it a success. 'I do not propose to mount a public relations campaign on behalf of the PLA, but I do intend to expose them to as many aspects of Hong Kong life as possible.'