Governor Chris Patten and China yesterday sought to calm fears the PLA Garrison was being given special privileges before the handover. 'There are no instructions to do other than apply the existing Customs and immigration regulations impartially and fairly to everyone, whether they are in the PLA or whether they are in the Girl Guides,' Mr Patten said. In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said the advance military personnel had been 'extremely disciplined' and would never overstep the law. The assurances came after Major-General Zhou Borong was involved in a dispute with Customs after being asked for his closed-area permit when returning from Shenzhen. Confronted by legislators at Question Time yesterday, Mr Patten said the mainland troops would not be exempted from Customs searches. 'The PLA, coming through the border, have to continue to follow all the Customs and immigration procedures which are laid down,' he said. The Legco security panel will discuss the row at a special meeting this morning. In a letter to the South China Morning Post last night, Secretary for Security Peter Lai Hing-ling confirmed General Zhou and his car were briefly stopped for routine checks on May 27. 'There appeared to be some misunderstanding about the procedure and the document to be shown, partly attributable to the language barrier and partly because it was the first time he and his driver crossed the border through normal channels,' Mr Lai said. 'There is no question of him and his vehicle barging into the frontier closed area without a closed-road permit because all vehicles of the PLA advanced personnel had been issued with such permits before their entry into Hong Kong. 'General Zhou subsequently sought clarification from us. We explained to him the situation and the matter no longer became an issue to both sides.' Mr Patten said Customs officers had acted correctly and he denied they had been told to be easy-going with people or vehicles from the PLA. 'If there were any such instructions, I would countermand them immediately, as would the Secretary for Security . . .' he said. 'The issue of a list of those cars . . . is to try to help Customs officials so that we can all avoid any incidents like this in the future.'