THE growing campaign against the Government's surprise U-turn in allowing expatriate civil servants to switch to local contracts would appear to have gathered far greater momentum than the administration expected. Legislator Tam Yiu-chung - who is already threatening to sponsor a private member's bill to try to stop the move - says he hopes to reconvene Legco's Public Service Panel to discuss the issue within the next few days, while Liberal Party chairman Allen Lee Peng-fei accused officials of acting with contempt towards councillors. Amid all the gathering condemnations, perhaps the biggest surprise has been Beijing's low-key response. While the local leftist press has predictably railed against the new policy, Chinese officials have largely limited their condemnation to complaining about the lack of consultation on the issue, carefully steering clear of making the all too obvious threats to repeal the decision after 1997. Beijing's rare failure to take full advantage of what would normally be regarded as the perfect propaganda issue shows how important the civil service is to its post-1997 plans. China has clearly perceived what the present Government all too often fails to notice: it is not enough to have a civil service that takes orders; what is needed are public servants who carry them out both in letter and in spirit as well. It is in Beijing's interest to maintain the favours of all sections of the public service, including the expatriates who will still be here after 1997. So, as local representatives step up the heat on the issue of contracts for expatriates this week, they may yet find that they may not be able to count on too much support from across the border.