The British garrison here is, by and large, reasonably well disciplined and law-abiding. However, when a soldier does commit an offence he is tried in the Hong Kong courts. British troops can only be tried by a military tribunal or whisked off to the UK for trial if they have committed an offence against another member of the garrison or if the offence arose in the course of duty. That has been the case at least since 1965. Yet, according to representatives of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, Qiao Xiaoyang, vice-chairman of the legislative affairs commission of the National People's Congress, has told them People's Liberation Army troops can only be tried by Chinese military courts. It is unfortunate that China should place so much less trust in the Hong Kong courts than the British did. The Basic Law states unequivocally that the post-1997 garrison will abide by Hong Kong laws as well as national ones. The Basic Law does not specify where or by whom offenders are to be tried. But it would be unusual, to put it mildly, for a person subject to local laws to be tried by a court other than the one vested with the responsibility for administering them - particularly when the military courts will have no experience of Hong Kong's common law system. Very often Beijing use visiting delegations from the territory to sound out ideas that are not necessarily the consensus of Chinese leaders. They very often adjust drafted policies after gauging reactions from the people of Hong Kong. The selection process of the Chief Executive is an apt example. After complaints from Hong Kong people, the process unexpectedly has become more transparent. One should not be surprised that Mr Qiao's opinions are his own and, as such, are susceptible to change. In fact, Mr Qiao's Preparatory Committee colleague, former Basic Law drafter Maria Tam Wai-chu, appeared more reassuring. She understood that Hong Kong courts would have jurisdiction over military offences unless they were committed inside a military base. One must hope she is right. Herself a lawyer, Miss Tam's remarks should have some influence where it matters. There is no reason to assume the future sovereign's armed forces will behave any worse than their British predecessors. On the contrary, the rank and file will be mostly confined to barracks and will have little chance to cause trouble. But for those who do commit crimes, particularly where corruption or intimidation may be involved, Hong Kong has a right to ask that soldiers face the same courts and sanctions as civilian offenders. Not only may offenders be better off under the less Draconian Hong Kong system, but local people will have the reassurance that justice has been done and seen to have been done.