A HIGH-PROFILE campaign by Hong Kong for renewal of China's Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trading status would risk the territory being seen as an ''apologist'' for Beijing, the Government has told legislators. Officials said MFN renewal had turned into a dispute between Washington and Beijing over human rights. It would therefore be ''counter-productive'' for the territory to conduct a high-profile campaign in Washington, as had been done in previous years. In a paper prepared for the Trade and Industry Panel meeting today, the Government says a high-profile campaign ''would risk Hong Kong being seen to defend China's human rights policy and hence appear as an apologist for China''. The paper represents a turnaround from government policy over the past few years, when Hong Kong undertook publicity exercises to persuade the US Government to renew MFN. Governor Chris Patten visited the US last April and made an impassioned plea for trade policy not to be linked with politics. He said Hong Kong would lose millions of dollars in trade and thousands of jobs if MFN were not renewed. The decision on MFN is made in June. Last time, US President Bill Clinton said that unless China improved human rights and met other conditions, MFN would not be renewed next year. ''This political agenda has complicated substantially US-China trade relations, particularly because China regards such demands as an infringement of its sovereignty and foreign interference in domestic issues,'' the paper says. Instead, Hong Kong should rely on prominent non-official business groups like the American Chamber of Commerce to take up the lobbying. Missions will be organised by the chamber to Washington next year, it says. ''The American Chamber of Commerce is the best conduit to put across the message about the substantial damage which MFN withdrawal would do to American commercial interests in Hong Kong and China.'' Although deliberately keeping a low-profile in formal lobbying, the Government's team in Washington would continue to target key congressional members to maintain a good relationship. The Government would also keep in close touch with business allies and the business coalitions involved in US-China trade. United Democrats legislator Dr Huang Chen-ya said negative results had been created by the high-profile lobbying approach adopted by the Hong Kong Government in the past two years. ''I understand that very often when a large delegation led by the Government visited the US in the past two years, they were challenged by the congressmen and senators and asked whether they supported China's human rights policy,'' he said. ''And the delegation could hardly satisfy the Americans when they attempted to reply to such sensitive questions. They eventually angered the Americans and discredited the Hong Kong Government,'' he said. Dr Huang, who said he would decide whether the tactical shift was appropriate after today's panel meeting, would not support a method which ''looked very good on paper but would create unnecessary ripples''. Independent legislator Vincent Cheng Hoi-chuen agreed that a low-profile approach might be more appropriate. He said more challenges from American politicians could be expected if there was large-scale publicity. ''They may be forced to take an antagonistic stance if we are high-profile even if they privately show sympathy towards Hong Kong,'' Mr Cheng said.