Yesterday's High Court ruling which upheld the Government's decision to bar senior civil servants from participating in the Selection Committee is in the best interests of Hong Kong. It is also, in the long term, in the interests of the Civil Service itself. The strength and authority of the organisation derive from its staunchly apolitical base. The officers in its ranks have a prime responsibility to serve the people of the territory. They can best do that by distancing themselves from any overt political activity. Neutrality is the surest guarantee they have of continuing public confidence - and thus of contributing to the stability of Hong Kong in the months bridging the handover. The Government made a major concession when it allowed the rank and file of the civil service to participate in the selection process, since that involves voting for members of the provisional legislature, a body which it regards as illegal. No one should argue that there is any comparison between the right to vote in a legitimately constituted ballot for a publicly-elected assembly and the desire to become involved in a contentious process resulting in a temporary legislature whose legality is at question. The court's ruling will come as a disappointment to the Senior Non-expatriate Officers' Association which challenged the ban on the grounds of discrimination from both a legal and professional standpoint. But those in the higher ranks of the service must accept greater restraints. Conflict of interest is involved here. Senior civil servants are privy to confidential information. While they may work in less sensitive areas of the administration, their public office automatically places limits on their activities. The Government was correct to apply the ban to all directorate grade officers. It would have been absurd to restrict it to only those in highly-sensitive departments. The litigants may come to see the wisdom of remaining on the sidelines in the months ahead.