Selection is well under way of those who will be honoured in the first annual Bauhinia Awards list of the SAR. It's a busy process. In a dozen government departments, civil servants are sifting letters, adding comments and passing them to Stephen Fisher, Deputy Director of Administration, and then on to a seven-member Honours Committee. The ultimate decision is up to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. In some ways, things haven't changed much; those named when awards are published after July 1 will have been picked in much the same way as recipients of royal honours under the old British colonial system. There are some differences. This is a made-in-Hong Kong system. No longer are local recommendations screened anywhere else. 'We don't have to flick them up to Beijing for approval,' says Director of Home Affairs, Shelley Lau, whose department is involved in seeking grassroots input. New guidelines have 'rationalised' the way in which honours are decided, says Stephen Fisher. Civil servants, for instance, will not have to reach retirement age before they get their 'gong'. Anyone can suggest someone for an award, and the person nominated can come from any walk of life, but must have made an outstanding contribution to the community. This list is for the people, not just public servants. But it is the civil service reaching out into the community that is actively seeking nominations. Through the 18 District Offices under Shelley Lau's department, advice is sought from District Boards and building management committees, from kaifongs and rural committees, school groups, local charities and self-help organisations. The awards in July may hold some surprises. I hope so. When the four score recipients go to the September presentation at Government House, they should reflect the best Hong Kong has to offer. I pray that imagination is given loose rein. I hope the Honours Committee breaks from the narrow mould. There are few surprises in the seven-strong Honours Committee, headed by Chief Secretary Anson Chan and Financial Secretary Sir Donald Tsang. Two Executive Council Members, Dr S Y Chung and Rosanna Wong, sit on the committee. So does former ExCo Member and banker Sir Quo-wei Lee, Dr Lee Hon-chu, with his strong bonds to the business community and Dr Raymond Wu, who played a significant role in the transition. But where are the voices which will speak for sports and entertainment? Who will spark nominations among trade unions, student organisations, fishermen's groups, environmentalists, artists, writers, and scientists? Where is the voice of the common people? The Honours system should stretch broad its embrace, recognising as many as possible of the strands that make up society. It shouldn't be restricted to the rich and famous, nor to civil servants and wealthy businessmen. It's the people's list. There are some wonderful people in Hong Kong who have never been recognised, and probably would be embarrassed if anyone suggested their quiet acts of decency deserved any public credit. There are many I would like to see honoured. Those who try to bring a measure of joy and comfort into the lives of the old and lonely would be top of the list. Voluntary visitors who go to prisons to chat with long-term convicts are another group. The patient souls who sit by the bedsides of those dying in hospices are heroes whose courage and sympathy are unsung. People who cheerfully give up their weekends to run voluntary youth programmes to help rehabilitate troubled youngsters deserve recognition. So do those who staff crisis centres to comfort and counsel the distressed or suicidal. What we should be doing, as a sage friend suggested, is to search for the golden heart of the gold bauhinia. We should be seeking to say thank you, bless you, to people whose sheer natural goodness will inspire others. The medals are a colourful collection. The Grand Bauhinia gold star hanging from a red and yellow ribbon recognises lifetime achievement. The three Orders of the Bauhinia Star - gold, silver and bronze - are roughly equal to the old CBE, OBE and MBE. Government Secretaries and equivalent ranks will get gold, departmental heads silver, and others bronze. The single-class Medal of Honour will go to long-serving, loyal, and dedicated civil servants of lower ranks, and to people like school teachers and scoutmasters. There are three bravery medals: gold; silver; and bronze. These awards will reflect the sacrifice and valour displayed. No set number will be issued. I am glad the SAR has initiated an honours system. Let's hope we find the living heart of the community upon which to bestow these honours.