When Wong Man-fong was deputy secretary-general of Xinhua (the New China News Agency) in Hong Kong, in the early 1980s, he spoke to many people. Some of his conversational partners were rather strange people for a senior Chinese Government official to choose for a chat. At least once before the signing of the Joint Declaration in 1984, Mr Wong requested a meeting with top triad officials. He asked them not to upset Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. In return, he made them an astonishing promise. Chinese officials would allow triads to continue their activities as long as they did not threaten our future. Dutifully, the secret society leaders agreed to order their members not to rob Chinese-funded institutions and said they would not destabilise Hong Kong. Well, how nice of them. Mr Wong, 66 and retired, disclosed his part of the deal during a forum at Baptist College earlier this month, as part of a series of lectures in which he discusses decision-making and implementing China's resumption of sovereignty. This is no junior staff member of Xinhua putting his foot in his mouth; Wong was one of the five-strong team formed by Deng Xiaoping to lay down policies for the handover. So his words carry weight, which is why they have had such a stunning impact. China negotiating with criminals over how they can operate in the future? It's a shocking notion. Little wonder it caused consternation. Since then, silence has fallen over Xinhua whenever questioned on this tale. Mr Wong's statement demands answers. People have the right to know more of this meeting at which their fate and the question of law and order in our community were apparently agreed between a senior representative of China and the leaders of an underworld conspiracy. The questions are obvious. No answers have been forthcoming. First of all, who are these mysterious 'triad leaders'. What are their names and what occupations do they follow? What positions do they fill in the alternative, legal world? What prompted Mr Wong to approach such people? Does he imagine triads are so powerful they hold our fate in their hands? What else was discussed? Xinhua answered all questions with silence. Well then, was it Chinese Government policy to talk to the leaders of secret societies about their plans and policies in China? Silence. Does Xinhua continue such discussions at present? As the reversion of sovereignty approaches, are Chinese officials sitting down over cups of tea discussing our future with the head honchos of the 14K and the Wo Sing Wo? It would be nice to know. Requests for an interview with Xinhua were ignored. The Hong Kong Government is similarly bashful. 'We do not wish to comment on any statements made by individuals,' a government spokesman said. Government should demand a full explanation. Mr Wong is not a mere 'individual' but a senior Communist Party member and a Chinese official charged with deciding in part our future. The issue came at a time when police are boosting frontline troops in the fight against secret societies, which has been going on since the British arrived in Hong Kong. In the past year, 232 new posts have been created in anti-triad sections, and police are armed with tough legal weapons that allow them to more vigorously pursue organised crime. 'The change of sovereignty will make no difference to the police efforts to tackle triads,' the spokesman added. Has anyone told Mr Wong? This was not the first time revelations of Beijing relations with triads have shocked Hong Kong. In 1992, the minister of public security, Tao Siju, openly referred to some triads as 'good people' and 'patriotic'. There was one reassuring aspect; in 1993 Mr Tao confirmed his ministry opposed robbery, arson and killing by any organisation. Senior members of law enforcement departments under his control presumably keep in touch with triad philosophy and thinking by attending big receptions and parties like those given by the Sun Yee On when its leaders were in Beijing a couple of years ago at the opening ceremony of one of their new legitimised business ventures. Mr Tao has said some triad members love China and Hong Kong and can 'become good and be reformed'. Such comments have caused outrage among legislators and dismay among policemen. How can police enforce the law when representatives of our future sovereign state are chatting on matey terms with the bosses of criminal conspiracies? Under our laws, secret societies are banned. To be a member of a triad is to commit an offence punishable by three years in jail and a $1 million fine. Most society members who end up behind bars, however, get there after convictions for assault, intimidation, extortion, blackmail or loan-sharking, their preferred methods of business operation. Yet Mr Wong, seemingly, and the minister of public security of China, seem to find nothing repellent about discussing the implementation of law enforcement in Hong Kong with criminals. How can this be justified? The simple answer is no. If the individuals who met Mr Tao are sufficiently 'patriotic' and full of love for Hong Kong to talk about our future with top Chinese leadership, surely we are entitled to know who they are?