BEIJING is considering allowing mainland press and publication units to form joint ventures with their overseas counterparts, according to the deputy chief of the State Press and Publications Administration. Mr Liu Gao, speaking after a session at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference yesterday, disclosed there were already a number of pilot projects between mainland and overseas publication organisations. The authorities were still studying the experiments to see if joint-venture and ''contractual'' publication companies could be allowed. Mr Liu said China also welcomed Hongkong and Taiwan publication companies co-operating with mainland units in publishing books without actually setting up joint-venture entities. ''In recent years there has been a marked progress in the use of foreign funds and technology by the mainland publication industry and I believe this trend will continue,'' he said. It is understood that Beijing is giving preferential treatment to Hongkong companies when vetting joint-venture proposals. A publication source said: ''Joint ventures with Taiwan involve the knotty problem of Beijing's demands that Taipei also allows mainland publication units to set up operations in Taiwan.'' The contents of Sino-foreign publications will be confined to entertainment, sport, technology and business. The source said a large Hongkong publishing group, one of whose senior executives was in Beijing last week, had already secured initial approval for acquiring a major stake in a Beijing-based business newspaper and in several magazines.