It is the occasion to which no one has so far been invited. But, already, the rejections are starting to come in. First Britain, and now the United States, have warned they will boycott the July 1 inauguration ceremony for the Special Administrative Region government if it is used to swear in members of the provisional legislature. The American stance, which represents a hardening from Washington's previous evasiveness on the issue, comes after Prime Minister Tony Blair raised the matter with US President Bill Clinton during his recent visit to London. Behind the scenes, Britain is almost certainly engaged in discreet diplomatic lobbying to try to persuade other Western countries to join the proposed boycott. Although invitations have yet to be issued, Beijing's plan is clear. Provisional legislators, together with Hong Kong's handover executive councillors and senior judges, are to be sworn in at the same ceremony at which Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and his principal officials are formally inaugurated. More than 4,400 local and foreign VIPs are expected to attend and by lumping the events together, Beijing hopes to give the interim body kudos it would never have otherwise enjoyed. Mr Tung apparently believes British and American objections amount to little more than political posturing. But he would do well to take them more seriously, for it is his stature which will be most hurt by any concerted boycott. The investiture of the first chief executive should be an event that rises above political controversy. It is, as China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday, a significant event of historical importance. With President Jiang Zemin now expected to attend, it will symbolise to the local and international communities that Beijing has entrusted Mr Tung with the authority to administer Hong Kong free from central Government interference. The provisional legislature cannot aspire to the same status. It is a transitional body, unmentioned in the Basic Law, which will never form part of Hong Kong's constitutional framework. It would be wrong to allow the controversy over its existence to tarnish Mr Tung's inauguration. Beijing would lose nothing by holding a separate swearing-in ceremony for provisional legislators. It could even benefit, since many Asian and other foreign governments would probably attend such an event, so giving some international recognition to the body. So in the interests of Hong Kong, China and Mr Tung, Beijing should revise its arrangements for the inauguration ceremony before petty politics are allowed to damage an event that deserves better.