BRITAIN last night told China to prove its commitment to a prosperous future for Hong Kong by agreeing to an ''elected and credible'' administration in the territory before it is handed back in 1997. Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd told the House of Commons early this morning (Hong Kong time) that the territory faced a stark choice between democracy and corruption. ''The underlying question is simple. Will we bequeath to Hong Kong an open and democratic system offering the electorate a genuine choice?'' he asked. ''Or will we settle for a system based on small electorates open to manipulation and corruption?'' Mr Hurd was briefing Parliament on deadlocked talks with Beijing over democratic reforms proposed by Governor Chris Patten. He said he and Mr Patten wanted the talks to continue and London had offered to stage another round, the 18th, in Beijing later this month. ''We are prepared to work seriously and constructively to that end. We strongly hope that the talks will continue . . . We look for corresponding commitment from their side,'' Mr Hurd said. China has consistently accused the British side of lacking sincerity in wanting to reach agreement with China on the electoral reforms. Beijing officials said that if Mr Patten goes ahead and tables a set of limited reforms, which did not have Beijing's agreement, in the Legislative Council on December 15 as planned, discussions about Hong Kong's political future would have come to an end. Mr Hurd said the issue was how the principles of the Joint Declaration and Basic Law should be turned into practical arrangements for the elections. Mr Patten's proposals have been carefully framed to be consistent with the Basic Law. Mr Hurd said Hong Kong owed much of its success to ''the rule of law supported by a clean and efficient administration''. ''If that precious asset is to be preserved in modern circumstances, the territory needs an elected and credible legislature which can stand up for its way of life,'' he added. The lower-level Anglo-Chinese Joint Liaison Group is scheduled to meet in London for three days from today to discuss practical issues like Hong Kong's new airport and a much-needed container terminal. But in the present icy atmosphere, British officials see little chance of the stalemate being broken on these key economic projects. An attempt by a pro-China legislator to shelve the bill covering four of the 1994/95 electoral arrangements was doomed yesterday when the largest party in the legislature, the Liberal Party, decided they would not support him. Legislator Tam Yiu-chung, vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, appealed to Legislative Council colleagues, other than the liberal United Democrats, to delay discussion on the bill until February. He hoped that doing so would bring China and Britain back to the negotiating table. In Beijing, a Chinese official said: ''The move can introduce more flexibility to the present situation. Yet, it would be useless if the British side has not indicated its wish to continue the talks to us.'' The bill covers lowering the voting age to 18 and voting method for the three-tier elections and the abolition of the appointment system in the municipal and district bodies on December 15. It also seeks to allow Hong Kong delegates of the National People's Congress to contest the elections. The United Democrats and Meeting Point have said they would not support delaying the bill. Yesterday, vice-chairman of the Liberal Party Ronald Arculli said the party had concluded that they ''could not'' support it unless other parties convinced them that doing so would have a ''reasonable chance'' of bringing the two sides together. But 24 hours earlier Mr Arculli said there was no need for the bill to be tabled on December 15. But speaking after a 21/2-hour meeting, Mr Arculli said Mr Tam had not told the party there was a chance of having the talks reopened if they succeeded in putting off the bill. He said that if they delayed the bill just for the sake of delaying it, one would ask the purpose of doing that. ''If the two Governments want to continue talking, they can definitely do that,'' he said, adding the real difference between the two sides on the three issues was not great. ''There comes a stage when you could do nothing despite all your goodwill,'' he said. He said the party had instead decided to write to the Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng and the British Prime Minister John Major, asking them to make every effort to reach a deal, which was the overwhelming desire of the public.