HK poised for Beijing hotline

A TELEPHONE hotline to Beijing's new body on Hongkong affairs is almost certainly on the cards, senior Chinese official Lu Ping revealed yesterday.

He said the setting up of a liaison office and telephone hotline in Hongkong, to collect public views on the formation of the post-1997 government, was almost inevitable.

The so-called ''liaison point'' would collect submissions and letters from Hongkong people to be sent to the secretariat of the newly set-up Preliminary Working Committee (PWC) for the Special Administrative Region Preparatory Committee.

The Beijing-based secretariat, headed by Mr Lu, will then relay the views to all members. He pledged the PWC would listen to all sectors of Hongkong society.

The 57-member panel, including 30 local members, has been criticised for its lack of wide representation of Hongkong opinions.

Playing down the PWC as ''a working body'' with no decision power, Mr Lu said: ''It's not a political discussion group. . . of course it has to listen to the views of Hongkong people widely. Anybody in Hongkong can reflect their views through the Hongkong members or through the liaison point,'' Mr Lu said.

He said they had considered setting up the ''liaison point'' in the local branch of the New China News Agency, but no decision had been taken.

The director of the State Council's Hongkong and Macau Affairs Office unveiled the idea of setting up a PWC office in Hongkong at a press conference at the end of the group's two-day meeting yesterday.

Mr Lu stressed the PWC was nothing more than a working organ, whose proposals were not binding. ''Their proposals can be accepted and rejected. It's not a power organ. It will only give views to the National People's Congress, the State Council and the SAR Preparatory Committee.'' PWC member Professor Lau Siu-kai of the Chinese University said China should be cautious over forming the office or it might be interpreted as ''another power nucleus'' in Hongkong.

Another PWC member Tam Yiu-chung said the Chinese Government should consider inviting people from the liberal camp to join the PWC to make it more representative.

But Mr Lu was noncommital, saying they would consider enlarging the group only if it was necessary.