CHINESE medicine practitioners are furious about long delays in government plans to boost their professional status. A consultation of Hongkong's first review of the practice of Chinese medicine ended on April 1 last year, but the working group has yet to meet to finalise its recommendations to the Governor. The secretary of the government-commissioned working group on traditional Chinese medicine, Mr Victor Ng Hon-wing, said the group was busy handling late submissions while negotiating with different parties in the profession to seek a consensus. But Mr Ng's explanation failed to convince the practitioners, eager for a registration system as proposed in the review to boost its professional status, to accept the delay. Five local Chinese medicine practitioners associations have formed a coalition to call for the recognition of their profession. The chairman of the Kowloon Society of Practitioners of Chinese Medicine, Mr Tsoi Sheung-tan, criticised the Government for stopping the work half-way. ''It is really strange for the Government to start the study, raise our hopes, and then leave the issue unexplained,'' he said. Mr Tsoi said most practitioners were in favour of a self-regulatory registration system. ''We're eager to see the final result of the consultation. Traditional Chinese medicine has a very, very long history and we really think we deserve the recognition of the society.'' Mr Tsoi said the coalition, annoyed by the slow pace of the government review, had organised its own registration exercise. Since it started in March, the coalition has received more than 2,000 applications. ''We could not just sit here and wait, we ought to take the initiative if the Government's attitude remains ambivalent.'' Mr Ng said the delay was due to the continuous influx of written submissions. ''There is no point in adhering strictly to the deadline if the public is so interested in the subject, we should not bar people from expressing their opinion merely because of the deadline,'' he said. The Government has received 200 submissions. ''Things have been going on quite smoothly and we expect the final report to come out by the end of this year,'' he said. Mr Ng said the working group had been negotiating with different sectors of the profession to reach a consensus before drafting the final report. Dr Paul But, director of Chinese Medicinal Material Research Centre of the Chinese University, said there had been personality changes in the working group recently. ''The group has changed its chairman for a few times and I don't know whether that's a reason for it, I've not been told anything on the delay,'' he said. Another member, Dr Mabel Yang of the University of Hongkong's Department of Physiology, also did not know what had happened to the working group. Having recognised the pressing need to improve the quality of Chinese medical service, the university decided to organise more extra-mural courses for the practitioners, she said. Since the setting up of the working group in 1989, the chairman has been changed three times.