THERE was no escaping Mr Lu Ping yesterday, not even for people wandering around Beijing's Yaohan department store. As soon as they entered the upmarket emporium, shoppers were confronted with a giant image of the silver haired diplomat gravely intoning the severity of Governor Mr Chris Patten's actions. The two-by-three-metre television screen by the main entrance focused for a full hour on Mr Lu's press conference held just down the road at the International Hotel and broadcast live across the whole of China. But despite Mr Lu's unmistakable presence, few people stopped to listen. Those who did, had to strain their ears to hear what Mr Lu was saying over the Canto-pop blaring out from the nearby phalanx of hi-fi systems. The assertion made by the moderator in Mr Lu's press conference that ''Mr Patten's deliberate attempt to sabotage Sino-British talks'' was now ''at the forefront of people's attention'' did not ring true in Beijing's shoppers' paradise yesterday. ''What's this then?'' one curious shopper said as he passed by the banks of television sets on the ground floor, all of which were tuned to Mr Lu's press conference. ''It's about the Hongkong Governor,'' his companion said, ''what's his name, Pang, something,'' he said before moving on to the food hall in the basement. Those who did stop to listen, however, were unequivocal in their assessment of the Hongkong question. ''Of course, it's Britain's fault the talks broke down,'' said a young technician with time on his hands. ''China and Britain had an agreement on Hongkong's future. Now Patten is going back on that agreement. How can China be held responsible for that?'' he said. A university student who was looking for a birthday present for his girlfriend agreed, saying that Mr Patten had clearly gone against the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. ''I think there should be talks to resolve this problem but clearly conditions are not right at the moment,'' he said. The technician voiced the opinion that despite the rhetoric of Mr Lu and his boss, Mr Li Peng, the current impasse between Britain and China could be broken. ''I'm sure it will be resolved. It is not that serious a problem,'' he said. A middle-aged woman passing by had a rather more hardline view on Mr Patten's proposals. ''Hongkong returns to the motherland in 1997, right? So by mucking around with Hongkong now, he is interfering in China's internal affairs,'' she snorted.