THE names are all too familiar: pro-Beijing hardliners such as maverick lawyer Liu Yiu-chu and aspiring chief executive Lo Tak-shing, along with most of his rival contenders for the post-1997 crown, like businessman Vincent Lo Hong-sui, banker David Li Kwok-po and surveyor Leung Chun-ying. They, along with billionaire Henry Fok Ying-tung and tycoon Li Ka-shing, are set to be members of China's ''second stove'', with Mr Fok tipped to be one of the vice-chairmen. The list is expected to be announced within weeks, once the National People's Congress Standing Committee, meeting in Beijing next Sunday, formally establishes the group. It is likely to provide the first indication of who Beijing expects to run Hongkongafter 1997. Also tipped to be included are former Basic Law drafters Dr Ann Tse-kai, another potential vice-chairman, Dr Raymond Wu Wai-yeung and Maria Tam Wai-chu, Federation of Trade Unions leader Cheng Yiu-tong and rising political star Tsang Yuk-shing, of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hongkong. The Hongkong appointees will essentially comprise a shortlist of last year's first batch of 44 Hongkong affairs advisers, with the addition of a handful of newcomers. Although more than half the 30 to 40-strong preparatory group - some estimates are 60 - are expected to come from Hongkong, they will be largely confined to Beijing's closest confidantes in the territory. ''The group won't be very representative of Hongkong people's views because it is something that is a consequence of Sino-British confrontation, and this has restricted China in finding people,'' said Professor Lau Siu-kai, of the Chinese University, a Hongkong affairs adviser who does not expect to be appointed. One of those who will be chosen was much blunter. Ms Liu said: ''There's no need for it to be representative, as everyone has been saying this preparatory group is not going to be a power centre.'' But most potential members have yet to be approached, with China expected to follow its customary habit of only issuing invitations at the last moment, knowing there is little danger of them being declined. The mainland side of the group will also see some familiar faces. These will most likely include local New China News Agency chief Zhou Nan and Hongkong and Macau Affairs Office director Lu Ping - both expected to be vice-chairmen. Other influential but lower-profile members are expected to include former Basic Law drafters Wu Jianfan, Xiao Weiyuan and Xu Chongde, and officials from the Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade. The chairman will be NPC vice-chairman Wang Hanbin, 67, also an alternate member of the Politburo. But the significance lies in the selection of the Hongkong members and their de facto designation as the advance guard of the post-1997 leadership. The formal appointment may only be to a new preparatory group ostensibly intended to pave the way for the establishment in 1996 of the Preparatory Committee mentioned in the Basic Law. But those chosen are almost certain to become members of that body. And, as Mr Lo's magazine Window recently pointed out, they will probably go on to hold posts in the Special Administrative Region (SAR) government. That means the scene is set for a quiet power struggle within the new body as its Hongkong members, who include most leading contenders for the post of chief executive, Hongkong's post-colonial governor, seek to extend the group's remit and their influence. Although the body will officially be an advisory one, it will exercise great influence since its recommendations will almost certainly be endorsed by the Preparatory Committee. While Mr Lu has promised Hongkong visitors to Beijing the group will not be allowed to handle transitional matters, which will be left to the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) to resolve, aspiring members may disagree. ''It is likely some members will try to extend the group's powers as far as possible,'' Professor Lau said. Much will depend on whether Britain and China reach agreement over the 1995 elections during the talks in Beijing, otherwise one of the main tasks of the new group will be to make arrangements for polls two years later. DR RAYMOND Wu said: ''If there is no convergence then the preparatory group will have more to do, but even with convergence there is still enough to do. ''The preparatory group is just a think-tank and so it need not restrict itself to a few areas. It should be able to study any issue related to the transfer of power and preparations for the SAR.'' Ms Liu has also said she wants to see the body draw up a list of more China-wide laws applying to Hongkong after 1997 - above the six already laid down in the Basic Law - and research how future prohibitions of ''subversion and sedition'' should be enforced in the territory. But some fear the Hongkong members will be deprived of any real power over the new body by a mainland staff secretariat, officially created to support the body's work. Based in Beijing, and only expected to hold a handful of formal sessions every year although there will also be sub-committees, the preparatory group will have to rely on a secretariat to work out the details of general instructions it lays down. Legislator Frederick Fung Kin-kee, who last week attended a conference on the issue at the pro-Beijing One Country Two Systems Research Institute, said the consultative process during the drafting of the Basic Law showed how influential a secretariat could be. ''If there are too many ceremonial appointments then the secretariat will become all too powerful,'' he said, in reference to the expected appointment of figureheads such as Mr Fok and Mr K. S. Li. ''They write up the speeches for the convener to deliver during group discussions . . . and have some power over the agenda, too.'' That is one reason why pro-China figures have been urging Beijing to adopt a two-tier system, warning the new body must have some form of Hongkong-based consultative offshoot if it is to have any credibility. ''This sort of second tier would be just like the Hongkong Government's advisory bodies,'' said Dr Wu, suggesting even civil servants might participate in an unofficial capacity. But Beijing has yet to indicate its views, and little is likely to be said about a consultative mechanism when the preparatory group is set up. The expectation is it will be ''encouraged'' to emerge some time in the next six to nine months. ''China will express its wish to see some sort of consultative mechanism in place and it will then emerge from within in Hongkong,'' Professor Lau said. ''The whole process is still being discussed and many people have expressed different views about howit should be formed.'' One leading contender as the base for any consultative body is the One Country Two Systems Research Institute. Executive director Shiu Sin-por last week refused to comment on the possibility. Some estimates suggest it could involve hundreds of people and comprise 10 to 20 separate advisory committees, covering everything from politics to environment, with a potentially wider remit than its Beijing-based parent body. But much will depend on whether the mechanism that emerges is an official or unofficial one, and its links with the preparatory group. Some believe this preparatory group will be the first of many Beijing-based bodies that will emerge to prepare for the transfer of sovereignty. Mr Fung said he urged Mr Lu to establish a second body to pave the way for the setting up of the Committee for the Basic Law, due to be established in 1997, by studying the mini-constitution and preparing possible amendments, and educating Hongkong people. ''If Sino-British relations had not been so bad over the past nine months then there would not have been this preparatory group,'' Professor Lau said. ''It will not necessarily be the only group China will form in the next four years to handle matters related to the transition and beyond.'' The coming appointments may be the first of many.