THE timing of the Liberal Party delegation's visit to Beijing, which starts today, could not be more momentous. Just a few days ago the Governor, Chris Patten, hinted that there were only weeks left in negotiations with China on political reform in Hong Kong. And a few days before that the Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen and the British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd met at the United Nations in New York and also reported no progress. As we prepare to meet Chinese officials, including Mr Qian, diplomats from London and Beijing gather once more to discuss electoral arrangements for 1994 and 1995 elections. We are heading into a storm in Beijing because we know that British and Chinese relations are turbulent. But we will be there to speak for what we believe are the worries and aspirations of the people of Hong Kong and ask China to resolve its differences with the British Government. The implications for Hong Kong are grave if the two sovereign powers cannot agree to political reform. Failure now will send out ripples that could affect other issues in the future. Even though Mr Hurd and Mr Qian have promised not to let politics interfere with economics, we cannot be so sure. MY colleagues and I lobbied Britain and China hard in the spring to get the talks started because we believed that discussions could foster trust. Trust could improve understanding; and understanding would be an answered prayer. We still believe that with even greater perseverance and a show of willing, the mission can be accomplished. As a response to the British political initiative in Hong Kong, the Chinese Government earlier this year created a preparatory working group for the Special Administrative Region, whose representativeness is not apparent and whose agenda is not very clear. What the group does and what powers it will have ought to be spelt out. The Liberal Party would like to know how much responsibility it will be entrusted if Britain and China go their separate ways on reforming the politics of Hong Kong. The British, judging by the hints dropped by the Governor on Wednesday, have made concessions. China has already won a lot of face as the talks enter their 13th round and can budge a little to seal a deal that will bring relief. After all, what is thereto fight over when Hong Kong is definitely going back to the mainland and democracy is in the offing? The central concern of Hong Kong is not politics in itself but preserving the ways which have made it successful. We want to see the Basic Law promises realised and Britain and China co-operate in every sphere, as they have promised to do since the late70s when Lord MacLehose visited Beijing and received assurances from Deng Xiaoping himself. So the first and most important message we are bringing to Beijing is that Hong Kong wants and needs an agreement. Time is running out. Failure to agree will not only mean fresh elections in 1997 but immediate polarisation of the community and undermining confidence. The wounds will be deep and lasting. Hong Kong people expect the sovereign powers to try their utmost to find a solution if they are to believe that the two countries are genuinely putting our interests before other considerations. For all the words spoken and written about the rule of law, Britain and China still have not resolved their differences over the Court of Final Appeal. This is a subject we will raise. Whether the court has one or more judges from outside Hong Kong - which is basic sticking point between Britain and China - is essentially of little significance when the main concern has to be the exercise of justice. With the spotlight on elections not enough attention has been focused on whether Hong Kong should adopt its unique kind of ministerial system which our party and many and many others in the territory advocate. We believe that a cabinet arrangement, at the discretion of the future chief executive, is compatible with the Basic Law and is perhaps the surest way of ensuring that policies will be formulated by people with a public mandate. Politics is not the only concern. People have other, everyday problems to solve to be too distracted by elections that are still one year away for the district boards and two for the Legislative Council. Hong Kong is worried about corruption spilling into the territory from China and corruption encountered by its residents doing business on the mainland. We will request that the central Government do more to address the problem which it has acknowledgedand tried to tackle without overwhelming success. The territory has periodically coped with the influx of refugees from China. But today we are looking at another potential, and legal, rush as 100,000 children of Hong Kong parents living on the mainland await their chance to come south. These youngsters, recognised by law as having the right of abode in Hong Kong, and their mothers, ought to be allowed into the territory gradually so that we can manage to integrate them all. Unless China agrees to a phased and orderly immigration, we could be swamped, our facilities taxed, and social problems could arise. Hong Kong is constantly short of land. China can ease crowding in the territory be agreeing with Britain to auction more land for development. We need its help, too, in keeping border checkpoints open around the clock to enable freight traffic to pass through without the crippling delays that are now a common feature in the northern New Territories. EVERYONE waxes lyrical today on the economic integration of southern China and Hong Kong. The mutual benefits are amazing and yet not enough has been done to reap an even bigger harvest. We have pleaded with the central Government to keep its immigrationand customs checkpoints open around the clock to facilitate lorry traffic. China can approve the Container Terminal No 9 project which, completed, will be a boon to Hong Kong and the mainland, and give sufficient backing for the airport scheme. Hong Kong took the lead a decade ago to invest in the People's Republic not just for profit but because we the people here had faith that our ancestral homeland could rise from poverty. No one is happier than the people of Hong Kong to be pioneers and prophets in the sense that we can point to positive achievements - astonishing economic growth, green fields and bustling towns - with pride and with the knowledge that we have helped the transformation. Now Hong Kong has reached a critical junction in our relations with China. The people still hope that both Britain and China can compromise and turn into reality their promises of prosperity, stability and a high degree of autonomy for the territory. This is the least Britain and China can do and this is what their Joint Declaration requires of them.