SOMEONE in Xinhua (the New China News Agency) doesn't seem to want the present political reform negotiations to succeed. That may be an unpalatable idea for some to swallow. Indeed, merely to make such a suggestion runs the risk of incurring the wrath of the local leftist press, which has previously lashed out at this column for simply considering whether the talks will break down. They insist Governor Chris Patten is the only person who does not want to see a negotiated settlement over the 1994-95 polls. Yet, after the events of the past week, it is difficult to believe the Governor is alone in holding such a stance. For, while Mr Patten has been tucked away in the hills of northern Italy, where he can hardly be accused of committing any more of his so-called ''little tricks'', Xinhua and its local mouthpieces have been acting almost as if they want to disrupt the progress being made at the negotiating table. First came a warning shot across the bows. Xinhua vice-directors Qin Wenjun and Zhang Junsheng last weekend soured the atmosphere in the run-up to the ninth round of talks by reiterating patriarch Deng Xiaoping's decade-old threat to take Hong Kong back early if there were serious upheavals in the run-up to 1997. Then, no sooner had Britain given more ground in the negotiations than ever before - abandoning the Patten package in favour of compromise proposals, and so greatly narrowing the differences between the two sides - than Wen Wei Po was used to try to belittle the idea any progress had been made. A harshly-worded commentary, which is reprinted oppoiste, sharply attacked London's counter-proposals on the nine new functional constituencies. These had tried to meet Beijing's objections to the Governor's original blueprint by slashing the number of voters for the proposed seats, and organising them on the basis of specific groups and professions, rather than the broad sections of society Mr Patten had previously proposed. But, in a move which would only encourage Britain to believe there would be no point in making any further concessions, the commentary claimed London was still breaking the Basic Law, and would continue to do so for as long as it advocated the ''one man one vote'' principle. It was not the first time Xinhua's trusted mouthpiece had managed to put a potential spanner in the works of the negotiations. Back in June, Wen Wei Po 's leaking of Britain's three demands for a say in the make-up of the post-1997 administration, was followed by days of recriminations from both sides. Mainland officials sought to play down the significance of such commentaries, by claiming the local leftist press did not always reflect Beijing's views, just as the South China Morning Post and the Sunday Morning Post did not echo those of the Hong KongGovernment. Nonetheless, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that such attacks represent the view of some of the hardliners in Happy Valley who, under director Zhou Nan's leadership, believe no accord on the 1994-95 polls will ever be reached. ''It's certainly true there are some people in Xinhua who, not so much don't want to reach an agreement, but rather don't believe one is possible. That means they see no point in making any concessions,'' admitted one key figure in Beijing's new body on Hong Kong affairs, the Preliminary Working Committee for the Special Administrative Region. Others suggest the situation parallels that on the British side, where the hawks are perceived to be Governor Chris Patten and his team in Hong Kong, while the voices of conciliation tend to come from the Foreign Office in London. Equally, on the Chinese side, the hardliners are based in Hong Kong, while the pragmatists reside at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing. ''The hawks tend to be on the battlefield,'' one key local leftist observed. ''There are just as many in Xinhua as at Government House.'' Deprived of any senior presence at the negotiating table - the only Xinhua representative in the talks is the relatively junior research department director Chen Wei - the hardliners have no choice but to make their views known through the mouthpieces attheir disposal. Some suspect they have a long-term objective in mind. One popular theory within Government is that last week's attacks are designed to lay the groundwork for the day when the talks break down and shift the battleground to the number of voters for the newconstituencies, now that Britain has given way on most of the principles at stake. Whatever the explanation, it is clear some of the Xinhua officials who have recently spent so much time accusing Mr Patten of playing little tricks to disrupt the talks, are not above doing the same thing themselves. Britain may be too diplomatic to point this out at present. But Government House is busily noting down all the little tricks the mainland cadres have been playing. That means that, when the time comes, they will be well-prepared to give Beijing a taste of its own medicine.