DIRECTOR of Information Services Thomas Chan Chun-yuen must be ruing the turn of events that left him facing a de facto demotion instead of enjoying the high life as Hong Kong's chief representative in the United States. Back in June, Mr Chan embarrassed Tung Chee-hwa by telling a reporter not to ask the 'wrong question' during the press conference to unveil a key economic rescue package. Anxious to avoid any more blunders, a civil service postings board decided to send him to Washington as commissioner for economic and trade affairs. But then Mr Tung appointed Stephen Lam Sui-lung to the more important post of information co-ordinator, making Mr Chan's job far less critical. This meant there was no longer a pressing need to move him. So the offer of the US posting was retracted and instead given to Commissioner for Labour Jacqueline Willis, who was considered far better qualified. One reason is that she is single: civil service administrators have faced repeated difficulties posting married officials overseas, especially those with working spouses reluctant to give up their jobs in Hong Kong. Nonetheless, Ms Willis hesitated before accepting the offer. It's not that she fears being lonely, given the hectic social scene in Washington. Quite the reverse. With so many friends having said they will visit her, she fears even the commissioner's residence will not be big enough to accommodate them all and that visiting relatives may end up in a tent in the garden. How times change. It's only three years since Fortune magazine's controversial cover-story, 'The Death Of Hong Kong', predicted a grim time for the SAR after the handover. Local tycoons responded by setting up the Better Hong Kong Foundation to rebut such apocalyptic predictions. Now past differences seem to have been set aside, judging from a conference being held at the Island Shangri-La on Thursday and Friday. Entitled 'How Hong Kong stays one step ahead', it will discuss the 'success of the new relationship between China and Hong Kong'. The co-hosts are none other than the Better Hong Kong Foundation and Fortune. Proceedings will include a lunch with Mr Tung at Government House, at which the speech of thanks will be given by journalist Louis Kraar. Kraar is described in the conference programme as a member of Fortune's board of editors. What is not mentioned is that it was Kraar who wrote the 'Death Of Hong Kong' cover story. Might that give Mr Tung a spot of indigestion? Or will Kraar's cover story in the current issue of the magazine make amends? It is entitled 'Putting The Fire Back In Hong Kong'. Recriminations are still flying over the way in which last week's Legislative Council session on the Policy Address was brought to a premature halt because not enough members could be bothered to sit through their colleagues' speeches. Ronald Arculli of the Liberal Party jokingly suggested this showed that Cheng Kai-nam of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, who called for the quorum count, had ministerial aspirations - because the end result was that his speech will now be delivered alongside the replies of government officials on November 4.