A fierce row broke out between local and expatriate civil service officers yesterday as representatives of local officers pushed for higher Chinese-language proficiency levels for all civil servants. At the Legislative Council public service panel, Hui Kwok-hung of the Senior Non-expatriate Officers Association urged the Government to require all contract officers to reach a Chinese-language level equivalent to HKCEE level, or Form Five level, before they could become permanent staff. Those who had not received formal education in the Chinese language should be asked to pass a proficiency test, he said. 'Proficiency in Chinese language of HKCEE level should become an entrance prerequisite for all civil servants in the long run, in view of the Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong,' said Mr Hui, the association's chairman. Expatriate contract officers failing to fulfil the Chinese requirement should not be appointed as permanent staff, he said. Expatriates are at present required to know about 1,300 words, or Form Two level. The suggestion was criticised as discrimination by the Association of Expatriate Civil Servants. 'None of us should have illusions of the real purpose behind the push towards bilingualism in public service,' said spokesman Allan Roger. 'The local unions' desire is to remove those few remaining overseas officers from their posts in order to gain promotion.' Mr Hui's proposals failed to appeal to the Chinese Civil Servants' Association which insists that language requirements should be set according to the nature of the post. Lam Woon-kwong, Secretary for Civil Service, who is due to release the policy on expatriates' transfers shortly, stressed the Government would not adopt any extreme measures. The policy would be made in line with principles stipulated by the Court of Appeal in an earlier legal case on localisation. Mr Lam also stressed that the reading and writing of Chinese and English, and the speaking of Cantonese, English and Putonghua was the Government's long-term goal for the service. Legislators were worried that the wrangle would disrupt the community. 'The discrimination felt by locals in the past should be extinguished and not shifted on to expatriates,' Allen Lee Peng-fei, the Liberal Party legislator, said.