STRICT localisation rules mean RTHK has found it impossible to fill all its civil service vacancies for the English channels. RTHK head, Cheung Man-yee, said yesterday that civil service rules stipulating at least seven years residency in Hong Kong were unrealistic, because native English speakers were needed for English-language TV and Radio. She said RTHK management would have to ask the Civil Service branch for a special relaxation of the rules so ''the best candidates'' would be eligible for the generous civil service contracts, available for the first time in two years. ''We might even have to go through the whole application process again, because the first round did not turn up enough satisfactory candidates.'' Civil service positions at RTHK were frozen for two years while the Government considered allowing the department to become a corporate entity. Instead, staff were put on one-year departmental contracts. However, when at the end of last year the corporatisation scheme was put on indefinite hold, 60 new civil service vacancies were announced, about 10 of which were for English-language channels' staff. All 50 positions on the Chinese-language channels have already been filled, Ms Cheung said. A source at RTHK Radio 3 said staff were demotivated by the delays and that at least three reporters had resigned. Meanwhile, RTHK staff union representatives are making plans for an official visit to Beijing because of concerns about media freedom after 1997. ''We are planning to go on the basis of an exchange of professional experience, not for political reasons,'' said union chairman Leung Ka-wing. He said the 10 group members, who would each pay their own expenses, were hoping to contact Beijing television and radio representatives, as well as relevant officials. The RTHK union has about 400 members, representing about 80 per cent of the total staff.