IT would be only two easy to dismiss the Liberal Party's manifesto, released yesterday, as a wishy-washy document, designed to be all things to all men. In fact there is more meat in the document than first meets the eye. Finding the weaknesses is certainly the easy part. The party is against bad things like drugs and suicide, and in favour of good things like education, equal rights for women and, eventually, democracy. It is difficult to disagree with such reasonableness, but equally difficult to get excited about it. This is no radical agenda for reform by a group of people known for their readiness to fight for firmly held principles. Instead, it is a statement of acceptance that there is nothing to be achieved by arguing over the interpretation of the Basic Law. The manifesto calls, for example, for ''a wholly democratic government, including a democratically elected Chief Executive'' - but only after 2007. Since the Basic Law allows for the possibility of change in that year, provided two thirds of the National People's Congress agree, that ambition is at least not beyond the bounds of theoretical possibility. On the other hand, many members of the group were party to the 'Omelco Consensus', which called for full directly elected democracy by 2003. That they then repudiated the Omelco timetable when it became clear China did not approve says little for their determination to stick doggedly to their present timetable for the next 14 years whatever changes may take place here and over the border in the interim. The Liberals also claim reassuringly they will always put the interests of Hongkong first. If there is disagreement between Hongkong and China they will ''seek to persuade China to respect the desires of Hongkong people''. On the other hand, if there is conflict ''between the British administration and Hongkong,'' the Liberal Party ''will put the interests of Hongkong and its people first in arriving at solutions''. The British and Hongkong Governments will be constantly reminded of their responsibility to build ''a more open, transparent and accountable government'' before 1997, to ''truly realise the spirit'' of 'one country, two systems' and 'Hongkong people ruling Hongkong with a high degree of autonomy.' Few would disagree with the idea that a Hongkong party should put Hongkong's interests first, although some political groups have at times been suspected of putting China's interests rather higher. Yet the wording of these paragraphs is instructive. Constructive dialogue and persuasion are essential ingredients of the Liberal's approach to China. But Britain will be reminded of its responsibilities, while the party adopts its own solutions unilaterally. It is odd too, that it should be the British rather than the Chinese side that will be reminded of China's promises of 'one country, two systems, and a high degree of autonomy.' However the document is not entirely bereft of ideas or controversial initiatives. One striking example is the suggestion that Hongkong should develop its own ministerial system of government, relieving the professional administrators of the Civil Service of political responsibility for Government policies. Executive Councillors, appointed by the Governor or Chief Executive, would take political responsibility for their policy decisions. The idea did not originate with the Liberals. It is less than a year since one prominent member of the party was dismissing such a presidential style of government on the grounds that it would be hard to find the right people in Hongkong. Nonetheless the groups' adoption of the idea is an ingenious response to the recent Chinese-inspired warnings of reprisals against senior civil servants for too openly espousing and promoting the Governor's controversial constitutional package. The manifesto does not explicitly suggest Legislators should be allowed to return to Exco, although the Liberal Party's predecessor, the Co-operative Resources Centre lost four Exco seats when the two Councils were separated last October. Nonetheless it does call for communication between Exco and the Legislative Council to be restored, and the party clearly thinks such an arrangement would work to its advantage. If the two councils remained completely separate, US-style legislative gridlock could be avoided if the Governor chose a conservative Exco team that reflected the likely balance of power in Legco. Some serious thinking has clearly gone into this manifesto. The motive behind its most radical proposal is probably more the recovery of some of the party's previous power and influence than a wish to smooth the wheels of Government. However, it testifies to greater political astuteness and coherence on the part of the Liberals than has been evident for many months.