AS China's Hongkong affairs advisers return to the territory bearing messages of h China affairs adviser Sir David Akers-Jones has called on Beijing to get on with talks in the Joint Liaison Group and the Land Commission and, for the sake of civil service morale, not to let the political issue get in the way of other matters. The key to whether these advisers are doing Hongkong a service or merely showing Beijing what good friends they are now and what loyal citizens they are likely to prove after 1997, lies in the effectiveness with which they can put their points across. Those who merely urge China to follow its existing and public line no doubt reflect a valid current of opinion which shows that China is not without its supporters in Hongkong. They also prove the point that the territory is not the hotbed of dangerous sedition some of Beijing's more nervous leaders imagine. Beyond that, however, they are vulnerable to accusations that they bring little that is original or constructive to their role and do little real good for the people of Hongkong, whose interests theyshould also be serving. Those who urge Beijing to negotiate seriously with Mr Patten and listen to a broader range of opinion or to take a harder line are at least showing they are prepared to provide a real input. However self-serving or altruistic their motives, they are showing they are at least willing to speak out. Yet if China is not prepared to take any notice of anyone who does not toe the party line, the weekend's investiture extravaganza will be seen as a stage-managed affair with the real value of the advisers calledinto question. The messages brought back suggest that Mr Lu Ping, the Director of the Hongkong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, is at least sympathetic to the idea of listening to a wider range of Hongkong opinion and may even be prepared to include liberals in the next batch of advisers. Sir David's public role as an adviser, by contrast, is too new to suggest any track record. If China does indeed reopen serious contacts in the JLG - a prospect at which Mr Lu hinted before the former Housing Authority chairman's arrival in Beijing - itwill be hard to say how far his voice and the voices of other advisers making a similar pitch will have been a factor. Nonetheless, the fact that the first batch of advisers was specifically told their role would be to influence Hongkong as well as to provide advice, expertise and intelligence for China makes any statement they now make on their return seem suspect. A large number, for instance, have returned saying China and Britain should negotiate but that Beijing must not give in to Mr Patten. They may be expressing deeply held personal opinions, but the assumption must be that they are merely mouthing Beijing's line. In that light, one wonders what to make of the statement that Mr Lu has agreed to talk to liberals. Does it offer a glimmer of hope that China is generally interested in listening to the opposition or is it a clever attempt to divide the liberal camp between the United Democrats of Hongkong (UDHK) - who remain excluded from any dialogue with Beijing - and other more ''moderate'' voices? Is it indeed a signal that China is prepared to make a show of listening to more emollient UDHK members to divide them from ''subversives'' like Mr Martin Lee Chu-ming or Mr Szeto Wah? There can be no doubt that some advisers are prepared to speak out in favour of Hongkong and on occasion contradict received mainland wisdom. In doing so they perform a useful and welcome service, even if their opinions are ultimately overruled. But those who merely mouth platitudes and return to Hongkong armed with a quiver-full of official barbs from China do nobody any good. Mr Lu and local New China News Agency director Mr Zhou Nan are perfectly capable of putting those messages across themselves.