A Taiwan official responsible for mainland policy yesterday urged lawmakers to hurry up and pass proposed legislation that would govern relations with Hong Kong and Macau after the territories are handed over to Beijing in 1997 and 1999. The plea, by Mainland Affairs Council vice-chairman Hsu Hwei-yow , came after lawmakers suspended a review of two competing bills because of an argument over procedural matters. Review of the bills attracted widespread concern from lawmakers, most of whom were eager to ensure normal exchanges with Hong Kong would continue uninterrupted after next July. 'Our Government hopes to maintain close ties to Hong Kong and Macau, as we have in the past,' Mr Hsu said after attending the fruitless session. 'So we hope that solutions to more substantial problems won't be delayed too long due to procedural disagreements.' The meeting, a joint session of the Legislative Yuan's Legal Affairs, Internal Affairs and Foreign-Overseas Chinese Affairs committees, was called off after opposition lawmakers insisted that a final list of Foreign Affairs Committee members be set before review of the bills could proceed. Lu Hsiu-yi , a lawmaker for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said suspending the meeting was necessary to pressure the ruling Kuomintang into settling the procedural matter. Taiwan's legislature has come under increasing pressure to approve a Hong Kong and Macau Relations Act so ties with Hong Kong are not interrupted next July. According to Kuomintang lawmaker Daniel Han Kuo-yu , review of the bills should get back on track as soon as the committee's membership list is hammered out in negotiations with opposition caucus leaders. According to the bill presented by the ruling party's Cabinet, trade, relations and exchanges with Hong Kong would remain largely unchanged after next July. If the Government has its way, the act will ensure the two territories will be treated differently from mainland China under Taiwan law, even though they will come under Beijing's rule. One provision requires Taipei to provide 'necessary assistance' to Hong Kong and Macau residents in the event of 'critical political situations that endanger the security and freedom of people in the Hong Kong area or the Macau area'. The bill also ensures that permanent residents of the two territories may continue to visit, pursue advanced studies and even work on the island. But it authorises government ministries and agencies concerned to work out new regulations governing these activities and even limiting them if Taipei deems such actions necessary. Direct trade, shipping and air transport between Taiwan and Hong Kong are allowed to continue, but the bill authorises restrictions on trade and incoming traffic if the island's security is threatened, vessels or aircraft are determined to be mainland-owned, or measures counter to Taipei's interests are adopted by authorities in the two territories.