LAST December, legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing, sponsored a motion debate demanding the Government take immediate action to get the United Nation's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women extended to Hong Kong. The motion was carried unanimously, but all three civil service legislators abstained from voting on the pretext that the community at large was spilt on the issue. Two days ago, Mrs Peggy Lam Pei Yu-dja put forward a similar motion. This time the Government has softened its stance and accepted that there is actually a widespread consensus that more needs to be done for the 2.5 million female residents. The Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Michael Suen Ming-yeung, responded favourably on behalf of the administration, indicating that he would recommend to the Executive Council that the convention, already signed by 120 countries, be introduced to the territory. Officials have apparently come to terms with the fact that the local campaign for sexual equality is part of a bigger and irresistible global movement. The crusade to improve the status of women has been gathering momentum in the run-up to the Fourth World Congress of the United Nations' Committee on Women's Status to be held in September 1995. Women's rights have also become a topical issue across the border in China, which will pay host to some 20,000 officials and grassroots representatives from 180 countries to the congress. The delegates, including those from Hong Kong, are expected to put their heads together in Beijing to review the situation of women around the world and hammer out a plan of action. The draft plan of action contains a call to raise social consciousness of the legal provisions, both domestic and international, in sexual equality. Other proposed programmes range from eliminating illiteracy among women by the year 2000 to the control of violence against women. To ensure that the gathering will be a success, the authorities in Beijing formed an organising committee involving over 30 federal and municipal departments a year ago. In his recent report to the National People's Congress, Premier Li Peng singled out the Congress as a major task to be accomplished in 1995. China is not known for its frankness in recognising the darker side of Chinese society under the leadership of the Communist Party. IN preparing for the conference, however, China has admitted that pornography and prostitution have been rampant. The official target is to try to contain these problems by 1995. The authorities are also eager to curb the trend of women being portrayed as commodities and also as subservient to men in movies and the print media. The provincial, regional and municipal governments are also being encouraged to set up their own monitory bodies to supervise the implementation of the provisions under the Act for the Protection of Women's Rights. According to an international survey covering 109 countries, China comes tenth in terms of the proportion of women in the assemblies. The Chinese Federation of Women and its affiliates are not particularly impressed with the ranking and find it incompatible with the stated goals of the Chinese socialist system. They have urged both the People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference to appoint more female alternate members to raise the feminine profile in politics. Despite the explicit provision in the women's Act that the representation of women be gradually strengthened, the actual weighting of female delegates in the two current sessions of the two national assemblies have both been lowered. The women's groups further demand that more efforts be put into the training of female cadres for higher positions in the communist echelons. Official tallies show that the female working population accounts for 38 per cent of the total Chinese workforce. But at or above the provincial ministerial level, women only make up six per cent of the pool of administrators. The related numbers at the regional bureau and provincial department levels are 6.5 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively. The Hong Kong Government's Green Paper on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men also puts the local proportion of working females at 38 per cent. In Hong Kong, the ratio of women employed as managers and executives is 24.2 per cent, while that of professionals is 32.3 per cent. When the Green Paper was issued last August, there were 2,433 people serving on the Government's 313 advisory set-ups of which 370 board and committee members, or 15.2 per cent, were female. There is at least a prima facie case that women in China are about twice or three times worse off than their counterparts in Hong Kong as far as employment opportunities in senior administrative positions go. THE Chinese Government has also admitted that domestic chores have largely been shouldered by its women. A working female in China on average spends about 5.4 hours on housework in addition to her regular job. The figure is between 1.3 to 2.1 hours higher than the statistics for women in developed countries. The authorities have advanced what they called a policy to have the domestic duties socialised. The idea is to have the various units offering more financial and material support to help liberate women's full working capacity. A survey conducted early last year in Tianjin ascertained that every four in five of the 2,000 families interviewed wanted services in baby-sitting, cooking and cleaning, replenishing coal or fuel supplies, maintenance of household appliances, as well ascaring for the sick. Those interviewed were mostly willing to pay for these services. The idea of employing household servants might sound feudalistic to some more obstinate communist minds, but the fact is that companies providing hourly household services have been mushrooming in the major cities across the mainland. The Federation of Women at Shichun Street of the Putuo district in the city of Shanghai, for instance, launched such a domestic service company in April 1992. It has now matured into an institution with 200 staff members. The domestic helpers are earning between 1,500 to 2,000 yuan (HK$2,000 to HK$2,700) a month, almost 10 times the salary of a school teacher. While the Chinese leaders are obsessed with the West's threat of a peaceful revolution, it may well be the women's revolution that takes the country into uncharted waters even before they even notice.