FORMER Governor Chris Patten is to visit Hong Kong in December - en route to the handover ceremony in Macau. Etienne Reuter, who heads the European Commission office in the SAR, said Mr Patten was expected to represent the body at the event, in his new role as Commissioner for External Relations. The former Governor is also likely to spend several days in Hong Kong, in his first visit since he was mobbed during a book promotion tour last year. 'From the soundings I've taken so far I would expect him to meet a wide range of people,' said Mr Reuter, who is now in Brussels, where he will discuss the visit with Mr Patten. While nothing has yet been arranged, Hong Kong officials predicted Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang would almost certainly agree to meet him. Although Britain's Foreign Office timidly excluded him from this week's Buckingham Palace banquet in honour of President Jiang Zemin, Mr Patten's formerly frosty relations with Beijing have thawed considerably in recent months. There were smiles and handshakes during a recent first meeting with mainland officials in his new role. A source said that when the former Governor was introduced to the Chinese team at its mission in New York, Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan responded light-heartedly. 'Yes, Mr Patten's name is well-known in China,' he reportedly said. Perhaps Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands Gordon Siu Kwing-chue missed Mr Tung's recent row with the Democratic Party over Beijing's ban on most of them from visiting the mainland. Even if he did not, the fact that his boss does not want to lift a finger to help get them off the blacklist does not seem to have quite sunk in. During last week's Legislative Council debate on the environment, Mr Siu was proudly extolling the progress that Guangdong authorities were making in the direction of sustainable development. 'I'd really like to take you up there to have a look,' he told legislators. But the stunned looks on the faces of the Democrats clearly alerted Mr Siu to his mistake, for a moment later he quickly added: 'Of course I can't guarantee we can take all of you.' Democrats said they would be more than happy to see Mr Siu arrange a visit to Guangdong for them. But no one should hold their breath waiting for it to happen. A curious contest kicks off in Shanghai today. While most Internet companies try to avoid the attention of hackers, a Web site in the city is offering a 5,000-yuan (about HK$4,690) prize for successfully breaking in. China News Agency quoted the owners of www.netway.net.cn as saying the prize will go to the first person who gets into the site and obtains a file called secu.txt during the week-long contest. Hackers need not fear prosecution. The competition has been approved by the Shanghai authorities and the company is hoping to test the reliability of its new network security system, known as Hua Tang. The mainland has stepped up its efforts to combat such computer attacks in recent months. Mainland ministries even claimed to have developed new software which can effectively shut out hackers.