GOVERNOR Chris Patten has written to the senior Chinese official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, Lu Ping, proposing talks on the through-train arrangements for senior officials to ensure continuity in the top echelons of government. Despite the gloom over Sino-British co-operation, which makes any chance of early discussion remote, he says he is sure that talks will take place because it will be beneficial to both China and Hong Kong. Mr Patten said China had yet to offer any positive response. ''I would like to be having it [the discussions] now, whenever Chinese officials want. They know where I live,'' Mr Patten said. Noting that he had told Mr Lu about the appointment of Anson Chan Fang On-sang as Chief Secretary before it was announced, Mr Patten said he had also proposed ''more than once at talking to him about senior civil service appointments''. ''We will have those discussions in due course, I am sure,'' said Mr Patten, pointing out that it was in China's and Hong Kong's interest to do so. Under the Basic Law, senior officials will be appointed by the chief executive of the Special Administrative Region (SAR). An understanding between China and Britain on the senior appointments has been seen as crucial in ensuring a smooth administration after the 1997 changeover. Notwithstanding Mr Patten's optimism, it is understood that China is not enthusiastic in working out an agreed list with Hong Kong at present, given the hostile mood in Sino-British relations. There have also been fears that China might decide to compile its own list of senior civil servants for the SAR. Mainland officials and Hong Kong affairs advisers close to Beijing said it was likely that China was keeping an eye on the performance of senior civil servants. But it was too early to say whether some had been singled out to lose their jobs after 1997 and whether some pro-China figures might be drafted to the civil service, one adviser said. Mr Patten stressed that it was important for China to allow incumbent civil servants to continue to be appointed after 1997 on grounds of merits and ability. This would help ensure a smooth transition and maintain the morale of the civil servants, he added. ''I think any indication that they wish to politicise the civil service would be badly received,'' said Mr Patten. ''I don't want to try to do the job of the Hong Kong SAR for it, that wouldn't be proper. But it would be my judgment that in order to ensure a smooth transition, one would want to have experienced civil servants on the top jobs,'' Mr Patten said. ''But if I were assuming responsibilities for Hong Kong as sovereign power in 1997, I'd want the best and most experienced public servants in the most difficult jobs. I think that there is not a very strong argument for parachutists.'' If China remained unprepared to engage in talks on senior civil service appointments, Mr Patten said the Government would go on governing Hong Kong as competently as possible. ''We will go on offering to talk to China,'' he added. Despite suggestions that the civil service would be more inclined to turn to China as 1997 approached, Mr Patten rejected suggestions that he would be marginalised by the civil service. ''I think inevitably, when we get closer to 1997, the more people, understandably, are going to look to the future, the north, that's entirely understandable. ''For my part, as I said in the summer, I do want to see local people in the front seats [in running Hong Kong], I think that's appropriate. I think it's appropriate that I should try to stand back a bit. That's something that I recognised from the outset. ''People keep on saying this or that, that it's going to marginalised. We keep on making the decisions, we keep on making the running, we keep on making the agenda, not just on political issues, on other issues as well.'' Mr Patten said his authority and credibility to govern would only be undermined if he was prepared to have a rotten deal at the negotiating table and spend the last 31/2 years as Governor of Hong Kong in constant battle with those believing that Hong Kong should remain an open and pluralistic society under the rule of law.