DINNER at the elegant China Club last night, where the ever-ebullient David Tang is playing host to Deng Lin, the 51-year-old artist daughter of China's paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. Following pre-dinner cocktails some of the invitees like billionaire Li Ka-shing (who apparently offered to billet Deng Lin at his home but she opted for a downtown hotel so she could shop) and merchant banker Philip Tose and his wife Jennifer leave for other pressing engagements. As Hutchison MD Simon Murray walks towards his table I discover he holds cult status among the French community. ''He used to be with the French Foreign Legion,'' says one Frenchman, his eyes glowing in awe. ''I noticed he signed his name in Chinese whenhe came in,'' pipes in another. Sitting a few feet away from the main table - around which sits Deng Lin, New China News Agency director Zhou Nan and his wife, businessman T. T. Tsui, NCNA vice director Zhang Junsheng, art gallery owner Chang Tsong-zung (whose Hanart T. Z. Gallery is staging the current exhibition of Deng Lin's ink tapestries) and David Tang - I strain my ears to catch the dialect they are using. Mostly Mandarin, although occasionally, David interjects in Cantonese, probably to remind his table where they are. Throughout the meal, Deng Lin and Zhou Nan sitting side by side engage in conversation - at times Deng's daughter cups her mouth with her hands to deter eavesdroppers. They can not have been talking about Hongkong for as Deng Lin, when asked earlier if she discussed the territory with her dad, remarked: ''Absolutely not. He only talks about Hongkong with people who know what they are talking about.''