It is most alarming to hear deputy director of the local Xinhua (the New China News Agency) Zhang Junsheng suggesting that the agency should retain most of its functions after the July 1 handover. Contrary to popular belief that the importance of the local Xinhua will diminish after the establishment of the Special Administrative Region (SAR), Mr Zhang asserted that the agency would continue to play a crucial role. He further claimed that 'the SAR will handle matters of its own and Xinhua will continue to play the roles delegated by the central Government'. Mr Zhang said his office could be in charge of supervising local journalists' applications to cover news on China, producing studies on Hong Kong, liaising between local and mainland organisations, handling relations with Taiwan, etc. But it can easily be argued that there is no justification for the agency to continue to operate with the same scale as it does today. Many Hong Kong people will be extremely puzzled why these functions cannot be handled by the SAR government and should still be left to an agency which was established at a unique time with a unique mission. The Basic Law says that the SAR government shall come directly under the central people's Government. After July 1 the SAR government will have no need to liaise with the central Government and mainland organisations through a middleman. The SAR government can process journalists' applications to report in the mainland. It is more efficient for Hong Kong officials to produce or compile studies on the territory to the central Government. And it is more appropriate that the Hong Kong administration should also build up its own network with organisations in the mainland by taking over the liaising functions of the local Xinhua. In suggesting keeping the present Hong Kong Xinhua operations, Mr Zhang is forgetting that Hong Kong will soon be part of the family and Hong Kong needs direct contacts with its own family members. It is for the SAR government to set up its own representative office in Beijing to act as the bridge between the local administration and the central Government. Relying primarily on any middleman to keep in contact with the central leadership is not the answer for Hong Kong's longer-term interests, nor is it conducive to the territory's need to develop a normal relationship with the central Government. As Preparatory Committee member Professor Lau Siu-kai pointed out, the agency could overshadow the SAR government if it acted as a central Government representative and kept most of its existing functions. It will also undermine the chief executive and the administration. Meanwhile, it is also questionable how much backing Mr Zhang or the local Xinhua has secured in pushing for the Xinhua-as-usual line - at least the two local left-wing papers, Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po, were so cautious that one of them did not report Mr Zhang's suggestion and the other only buried the remarks at the end of a feature column. Beijing leaders have time and again stressed that they will not allow mainland departments and organisations to meddle in Hong Kong affairs. But more importantly, Chinese leaders should make sure those parties, which used to have their hands on Hong Kong affairs when the territory was still under British rule, should no longer enjoy such authority. There is no denying that the de facto embassy's historic mission will soon be completed. The job is done and all that's left should be for the agency to scale down its 500-strong operations to revert to its original role - news dissemination.