A WORRISOME tendency has developed lately that should be critically considered. This tendency seeks to excessively examine everything that will pass on the through-train to 1997. First the guardians of the through-train urged a witch hunt among legislators by the Basic Law Preparatory Committee. Then contracts and even our government budget needed their tickets examined. The most recent candidates for a ''witch hunt'' are all thelaws of Hong Kong. Not satisfied with vetting wayward legislators, these ticket agents now seek a wholesale review of our laws. Article 160 of the Basic Law provides for the SAR's adoption in 1997 of all existing Hong Kong laws except those the Standing Committee declares to be in contravention of the Basic Law. We are told that this provision should be used as a basis to vet all the laws of Hong Kong prior to 1997. The Hong Kong Bill of Rights, like legislator Martin Lee, is on the short list for exclusion. There are no shortage of experts prepared to assist the Standing Committee. It appears that the legal sub-group of China's Preliminary Working Group is prepared to set itself up as a Constitutional Court to conduct this review right away. But unlike a review by a Constitutional Court, the Hong Kong co-convenor of the PWC legal sub-group, Simon Li Fook-sean, is already on record as having concluded the Bill of Rights Ordinance contradicts the Basic Law, even before the review takes place. The clairvoyant Mr Li has also predicted that the future legislature will pass new rights legislation and otherwise the general tenor of future sedition laws, even before the SAR legislature convenes. He is quoted in several reports as saying that merely shouting ''down with'' a national leader could constitute sedition under future SAR sedition laws. This heavy handedness by a working group renders the whole transition process a farce. One can only hope level heads prevail. It seems just a few short years ago in 1986 when leading mainland Basic Law drafter, now the mainland co-convenor of the PWC legal sub-group, Shao Tianren, claimed that the Standing Committee would in practice be unlikely to exercise any review power frequently. His statements defending against the claim that the Standing Committee was seeking a power of veto over Hong Kong laws were prominently reported in the South China Morning Post on November 11, 1986. Now we are told we will require wholesale review of all Hong Kong laws and that Hong Kong's cherished Bill of Rights is at the top of the veto list. With this flip-flop it will be very difficult for Hong Kong people to ''put their hearts at ease'', another prominent early theme. One would hope that the Hong Kong government, aided by experts and community members, would reform our laws to better secure the rights of Hong Kong people under the Basic Law. This is the trend within all modern democracies. Such a trend is a long way from vetting all laws to take away Hong Kong people's rights. Such a self-serving exercise turns the notion of modern constitutional government on its head. It is going backwards. Why would the citizens of any community want to participate in such a process? Under these circumstances why would Hong Kong people want to take any of the solemn promises of the Sino-British Joint Declaration seriously? PERHAPS the parties should add to their ever growing list of agreements and alleged understandings a ''fourth principle''. This would include those assurances made directly to Hong Kong people every time the parties want to introduce some questionable measure into the Basic Law formula, often accompanied by the suggestion that Hong Kong people should ''put their hearts at ease''. This could be fondly referred to as the ''put your hearts at ease'' assurance. One could then prepare a list of commitments made in conjunction with this statement, generally in order to curb resistance to some new twist in the Basic Law puzzle. I suggest that the first item on this list should be Mr Shao's commitment that the Standing Committee's power to review Hong Kong laws will rarely be exercised. This includes any working group of the Standing Committee. One can only hope that reform minded groups, lawyers and scholars in Hong Kong speak up before the witch hunt for our laws begins. Michael Davis is a law lecturer at the Chinese University.