THE implementation of the British plan to decentralise power in Hong Kong in anticipation of the possible dictatorship of the Chinese Government after 1997 is nearing its final stage. As we get closer to the bottom of the democratising barrel, the ideas get muckier - and thicker. Is all this necessary? Have we gone too far? Arguments for keeping the Hong Kong civil service politically neutral were well covered in the press recently and support was unanimous among all the political parties (a rarity nowadays), the public and the civil servants themselves. I am surprised at the degree of desperation which must have driven the British Government to embark on such a politically risky venture. At this point, surely, the British Government should stop and reassess the situation; in particular, the rationale of its thinking. There is a danger the British will become so fixed in their posture of trying to parry growing Chinese influence at every turn they will find themselves in an increasingly irreversible and uncontrollable situation. We are already in the area of diminishing returns; that is, the value of the changes proposed is less than their costs in terms of stability and uncertainty. This is to no one's benefit. Hong Kong has one of the finest civil services in the world because of its sturdy, well-tried structure and the stability and dependability of its workforce. Like a 20-year-old Rolex, it still keeps perfect time and can continue to do so for another 20 years and longer. Any unnecessary alteration to its mechanism will only upset the works. Its balance and efficiency could go haywire. Consider how, in recent years, Hong Kong has stood up to the impact of a battery of changes, ranging through the formation of district boards, the Regional Council, restructuring of the Legislative Council, the corporatisation of Government departments, localisation and the general confidence crisis related to the 1997 handover. The strength of our resilience has largely been due to the resourcefulness of our people and robust economy - the latter is the direct result of successful economic reforms in China. The reverberations from these changes have not even got through their first cycle of effects and the dynamics of all these inter-related changes are impossible to estimate at this time. All one can say is the only certainty coming out of this is uncertainty. Hong Kong people have had enough. Significant changes are necessary in the structure and manpower of the civil service in order to adapt to the changes mentioned. This is going to be a major task, not made any easier by the fact that some experienced civil servants will be lost in the process because they will not ''take the bend'' into the new working environment or feel enough confidence in Hong Kong's future. Developing younger officials to replace them may take many years and the quality of the civil service could be strained. These important operational issues are the ones we need to be concerned about. The intrusion of new political variables into the middle of this delicately balanced equation is unlikely to be constructive. A salutary lesson on the success of even gradual change was reflected last week. After 15 years of trying to educate the public in the use of the metric system, progress has been minimal. Consider how much longer it will take for Hong Kong to absorb thatmuch weightier barrage of political and administrative changes already started. It should not surprise us. For the past 10 years, British policy has been a defensive one in nature. Its aim has been to defend Hong Kong from the perceived inevitability of Chinese influence after 1997. The democratisation measures, the decentralisation of Government control through corporatisation and the formation of new statutory bodies to take up Government functions have all sprung directly from this policy. Internationally, the much harped on registration of the Sino-British Declaration with the United Nations and the raising of Hong Kong's profile by such devices as elaborately publicised overseas tours have helped to generate international pressure to back the British defensive posture. Meanwhile, here and elsewhere, much has changed in that decade. In spite of June 4 [1989, Tiananmen Square], China's reform policy is working well and indications are it will continue to succeed. Further away, Russia re-taught us a lesson about the political-economic equation. Radical political change that is not happening on a sound economic basis is an unstable change - more likely a disastrous one. Regional conflicts in the former Soviet Unionand its former Eastern European ''clients'' look set to run for decades. It was not surprising the latest edition of Newsweek ran a headline ''Russia: politicians have a mud fight while the economy sinks and lawlessness spreads''. Do we want to see such a headline on Hong Kong and China? It should be clear to observers that China has watched the Russian experience carefully, as well as learning her own lessons. There is a firm determination on China's part that no parallel events will be allowed to develop there. No hurried political changes will succeed on the back of a fragile, developing economy. In this past decade, satellite communications have brought the world closer. Military confrontations still take place, but their pointlessness becomes more obvious. Ideological walls are still high in a few places, but are more difficult to keep up. Confrontation has been replaced by economic competition. In view of all these new global developments, the British might question whether their defensive and parochial Hong Kong policy is relevant anymore. They might consider an offensive policy instead. But not the sort that involves abrasive public criticisms and wild schemes which are actually all part and parcel of the defensive strategy. I mean a cultural, technological and economic offensive based on a good relationship between Hong Kong and China - a relationship involving all parties in co-operation rather than confrontation, concentrating on opportunities rather than problems and looking for commonalities rather than differences. The British should be working with China on issues such as localisation, future career prospects for expatriate officers, through-train for the civil service, and other issues like pension guarantees and working conditions which have a direct bearing on staff morale, rather than civil services' participation in politics. Disclosure of these startling proposals to politicise the civil service has at least gone to show this defensive ''Maginot Line'' policy of knee-jerk democratisation has reached the barrel's bottom. Let us now hope the British realise the only way out is up. David Chu Yu-lin is a Hong Kong Affairs Adviser to Beijing, and member of the Preliminary Working Committee for the Special Administrative Region.