GOVERNOR Chris Patten yesterday accused China of adopting ''the rule of man'' by announcing it would disband all elected bodies in 1997. Mr Patten said the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) had pre-empted the right of the National People's Congress' (NPC) Standing Committee to interpret the Basic Law. On Monday, a HKMAO spokesman said the three-tier structures were elected under laws contravening the mini-constitution and should be disbanded in 1997. The Governor described the statement as surprising and ''a reflection not of the rule of law but of the rule of man''. He said it could not be said whether the electoral reform laws would contravene the mini-constitution because the Legislative Council had not discussed them. ''Their position appears to be that whatever Hong Kong people want, whatever the Legislative Council discusses, whatever we propose in the Hong Kong Government or the British Government, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and senior Chinese officialswill throw it out,'' he said. He said he could not see why the electoral proposals of single-seat, single-vote, lowering of voting age and district board and municipal council arrangements would violate the Basic Law. The HKMAO had gone beyond its right to decide what was, or what was not, in line with the Basic Law, Mr Patten added. ''It's a matter for the NPC Standing Committee so I don't know what the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office think they're doing,'' he said. But he said the Legislative Council would work to ensure an electoral arrangement which was fair and open, and he did not believe such arrangements would be overturned. Despite the HKMAO announcement, the Government yesterday maintained that the tenure of office of district board members and municipal councillors should be kept at four years.