HONG Kong's yuppies are not the mindless money-making machines with few values and no regard for anything else in life that everyone makes them out to be. That is one of the conclusions of the territory's first survey into the minds of the well-heeled in Hong Kong. The survey provides a fascinating insight into Hong Kong's finest professionals, and may help form policies and strategies for Governor Chris Patten. When Mr Patten challenged Hong Kong to stand up for its way of life in his policy speech last week, he could take credit for singing the right tune - at least to the ears of Hong Kong's yuppies. Because, despite what many believe, Hong Kong's baby boomers are keen on the Hong Kong ''way of life''. They are also, the survey shows, interested in democracy. But it will take careful coaxing and cajoling - not the wagging of Mr Patten's finger - to get them actively involved in making sure ''liberty stands in the heart'' and does not ''shrivel'', as the Governor fears. The survey, held between July and December last year, asked 590 respondents for their views on politics, the economy and 1997. Of the respondents, 121 had monthly incomes of more than $20,000; most owned stocks, forex, jewellery and a car; some had a second home, and others a foreign passport. But while Mr Patten, and more so the mainland, may think ''the economy comes first'', the survey shows Hong Kong's middle class may not agree completely with their views. The mobile phone and pager squad, who comprise 20 per cent of the 590 respondents, regards democracy as important and know they should not cherish only Hong Kong's economic growth. Asked to choose between social stability and economic prosperity, most say stability came first. But they also do not fancy a peaceful and stable society that lacks freedom of speech. What worries them most as 1997 draws nearer is the loss of personal freedom and the Hong Kong way of life, with liberty the focus of their concern. They also worry about ''communism as such''. Money, or lack of it, does not top their list of worries. The yuppies valued an open society and treasured ''openness in its greatest possible sense'', said Dr Lui Tai-lok, sociology lecturer at the Chinese University and his counterpart at the University of Hong Kong, Dr Thomas Wong. ''They don't just want freedom to make money but freedom to do everything,'' Dr Wong said. Dr Lui said Hong Kong's future bosses should note the territory's economy is not all that should be preserved after 1997. ''These people do not think everything is fine as long as the economy works. They do value things other than money and career,'' he said. It matters to them how a government is constituted. They will not be satisfied with an effective government only; they also want the government to take into account public opinion. But while they are politically more sophisticated than is thought, the researchers discover yuppies are pragmatic when it comes to 1997 and the future. At present political participation remains low: the yuppies would rather visit emigration experts than attend political rallies, distribute fliers, or donate money to political parties. Of the 121 yuppies, only five have ever participated in political rallies, and only two have donated money to political groups. ''They are not apathetic, but whether their political awareness will materialise into action is a different matter,'' Dr Lui said. ''To them politics is a difficult game to play . . . but they know that closer to 1997, it will become more of an everyday affair.'' Dr Lui said policy makers should not underestimate the political potential of Hong Kong's yuppies. ''The middle class may not actively promote their ideology or what they believe is the Hong Kong way of life now. . . [But] when the political debate increasingly impinges on their daily life, their submerged feelings can surface and turn into something concrete.'' But Dr Wong warns Hong Kong's middle class may still be too pragmatic to support any cause. ''They are not apathetic but they are not Martin Lee,'' he said. ''They have an instinct for survival and they know how to play safe.'' The researchers feel neither Mr Patten nor the Chinese Government have fully appealed to yuppies. ''These people will not live comfortably only with economic freedom. You can't just say money is what they want so let's give them a good economy,'' Dr Lui said. ''But when you ask them to fight for democracy, they will stop for a minute to think whether your scheme is viable. They may find Mr Patten's approach too confrontational. They will calculate the price to pay.''