HONGKONG Governor Mr Chris Patten yesterday gave an assurance that there were absolutely ''no circumstances'' under which China would invade Hongkong. ''We are not going to do anything that would provoke them,'' he said. ''And China, for her part, would not invade.'' Mr Patten was speaking at his first television appearance since arriving in London on Friday night for nearly two weeks of talks with Britain's Prime Minister Mr John Major, Foreign Secretary Mr Douglas Hurd and senior officials. His comments came after lengthy questioning over Hongkong's deepening row with China. Mr Patten said Chinese leaders had made clear again and again that they would not invade Hongkong. ''I believe the Chinese leaders when they say that,'' Mr Patten said. He also said it was ''extremely unlikely'' that he would ever become prime minister and doubted whether he would even take up a position as an MP at Westminster again. Mr Patten also made clear he had no intention of standing down until 1997 saying: ''After Hongkong I would like to continue in some sort of public service role, but that is a long way off. ''I have more than three years in Hongkong and I want to do my job as well, and as conscientiously, as possible.'' Speaking to interviewer David Frost on the widely-watched BBC programme Frost on Sunday, Mr Patten said he believed there would be democratic elections after 1997 - provided China stuck to the Basic Law. He added: ''If there is any misunderstanding - a gulf - I think it is whether or not the Chinese leaders understand the relationship between Hongkong's way of life, Hongkong's freedoms and Hongkong's prosperity.'' Mr Patten said he was willing to talk with China about his controversial democracy plans for the territory ''at any time, any place''. He said China had softened its opposition to talks with Britain and Hongkong over the proposals he launched last October and he hoped they would do so again. He added that he was ready to ''tango anywhere'' - repeating a phrase, ridiculed by China, that it took ''two to tango'', in talks aimed at resolving the dispute over his democratic plans. He said that while China was committed to the principle of one country, two systems, the system within Hongkong was not just capitalism. It was the market economy operating within the rule of law. ''Take away the rule of law and Hongkong ceases to be the very special place it is today,'' Mr Patten said. He added that the rule of law could not exist without a credible Legislative Council. During the Governor's stay, Whitehall watchers will be looking for any hint of a compromise which might lead to a resumption of talks with China. This week Mr Patten will speak to the influential Tory Reform Group and the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Mr Patten said that talks with China broke down because the mainland insisted on preconditions - making a distinction between the different members of the British team. ''We have no doubt that talks should be between the two sovereign powers,'' he said. ''But an aspect of our sovereignty is that we should be able to choose our team.'' He stressed there was a difference between Hongkong and other territories which had been prepared for independence. ''In Hongkong we are preparing for the resumption of Chinese sovereignty,'' he said. ''The argument is not about something as clean-cut as democracy. It is over whether we have fair elections on 1995.'' Mr Patten hinted that talks could resume soon. He agreed to make a decision on tabling the proposals after the Easter recess. ''We will make that decision, bearing in mind that talks may have resumed by then,'' he said. The Governor said he did not believe the move by former Chief Secretary Sir David Akers-Jones to Beijing made any difference. He said he hoped Sir David would give the Chinese Government ''balanced and reasonable advice'' and not merely tell them what they wanted to hear. Commenting on criticism by former ambassador Sir Percy Cradock on the democracy blueprint, Mr Patten said: ''There used to be a tradition that public servants didn't comment on what happened after they retired.'' And he said he would adhere to the tradition of not talking about people who had gone before him. But he added: ''I don't think we will be going on holiday together.''