CHINA's top United Front body sparked speculation Beijing might seek an early takeover of the territory during its closing session yesterday. The suggestion came from a last-minute change to a resolution passed by the plenum of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The original draft version read: ''We are firmly convinced our government has the determination and the ability to resume the exercise of sovereignty in accordance with the schedule'', in a clear reference to 1997. But the last five words were deleted from the final version tabled and endorsed yesterday, sparking speculation China wanted to leave open the possibility of taking back the territory earlier. However, CPPCC vice-chairman and former Guangdong governor Mr Ye Xuanping insisted ''there was no special implication'' in the deletion of the words and stressed Beijing would abide by the Joint Declaration ''no matter what happens''. ''[People] do not have to make everything crystal clear,'' he said, citing the analogy of China's refusal to rule out the use of military force against Taiwan. The CPPCC also toned down its criticism of Hongkong and Britain in the final version of the resolution. The original draft condemned the two governments for ''atrocious'' actions, but this was deleted in the version passed yesterday, with Mr Ye explaining they did not want to use ''harsh'' words. However, the final draft still condemned Hongkong and Britain for breaking promises and so ''obstructing the smooth transfer of political power in Hongkong and a smooth transition and creating chaos''. The resolution also gave full backing to the government's stance in the row over Hongkong. Deputy director of the State Council's Hongkong and Macau Affairs Office Mr Chen Ziying described the amendments as a matter of semantics. Hongkong CPPCC deputy Mr Tsang Yok-shing said the deletion of the words ''in accordance with the schedule'' allowed for ''flexibility'', adding he was not worried about giving the impression of an early takeover. Mr Tsang emphasised the Chinese Government had reaffirmed it would still honour the Joint Declaration. Meanwhile, Mr Ye sharply criticised Governor Mr Chris Patten's political reform proposals. ''Hongkong people have to seriously think about how to maintain Hongkong's prosperity and stability if Mr Patten and Mr John Major cling to their proposals,'' he said.