Who qualifies as 'loving China and Hong Kong'? Those who keep the toilets clean, do not damage the toilet-flushing system, do not litter the streets, protect public property and love to see Hong Kong and China prosper? That is easy, if these are really the criteria China uses to define 'loving China and Hong Kong'. But they are not what China has in mind, they were just the conditions spelt out by Urban Council chairman Ronald Leung Ding-bong after meeting Chief Executive-designate, Tung Chee-hwa, on Monday. The question of 'loving China and Hong Kong' popped up during Mr Tung's meeting with Urban Councillors and District Board chairmen as the leader-in-waiting declared that those allowed to serve on the provisional councils would have to meet Beijing's criteria of 'loving China and Hong Kong'. While Dr Leung's own criteria - of observing cleanliness - were meant jokingly, local democrats, who may be banned from joining the provisional councils, also have the concept of cleanliness in mind when pondering Mr Tung's declaration - political cleansing is really what they fear. They worry that Mr Tung is going to flush them down the waste-pipe of political history. The status of a 1997 through-train for the municipal and district bodies has never been clear. All the controversy was mainly about the provisional legislature. The Preparatory Committee and its predecessor, the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC), have spent a lot of time discussing the present legislature, but the question of the regional bodies hardly drew their attention. At that time, Beijing was expected to be more lenient towards the membership of the regional bodies, and would allow democrats in both the municipal and district bodies to continue to serve through 1997. But Mr Tung's outright refusal to confirm all municipal councillors and district board members in their seats after the handover has quashed the democrats' hope. His affirmation that Beijing's criteria of 'loving China, Hong Kong and supporting the Basic Law' would be a test for eligibility for the council seats, immediately prompted criticism from the democrats. They ask: Why is the new condition necessary? Does it amount to political vetting or is Mr Tung introducing a new concept of political purity? The democrats have good reason to pose these questions - Basic Law drafters were sensible enough to leave the municipal and district bodies alone, so why has Beijing changed its mind now? The only sensible explanation perhaps would be that back in 1990 when the mini-constitution was finalised, it was totally unthinkable that hardcore democrat and leader of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement in China, Szeto Wah, would have stood for the Urban Council and won. The crux of the problem now seems to be that once Beijing gives the green light for Mr Szeto to retain his municipal council seat after the handover, it would be extremely difficult to disqualify him from contesting the first SAR Legislative Council poll in 1998. Therefore, the present problem is not purely a question of eligibility for the regional bodies' membership, it appears to be more to do with Beijing's bottom line in tolerating people such as Mr Szeto. Evicting the democrats altogether from the three-tier political system may give the leadership in both China and the future SAR a sense of instant victory, but they would also find themselves facing a huge political mess brought by the blockage of channels for dissenting voices.