THE intentions of the Chinese Government are irreconcilable with the demands of the people of Hong Kong. This is the belief that forms the basis of Governor Patten's decisions, and underlies the conclusions on Sino-British relationship made by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee (FAC) of the British Parliament. That is why Mr Patten refused to consult China before announcing his constitutional reform package, and why Britain decided to take unilateral action in the middle of talks with China to settle disputes over the Patten package. The Hong Kong and British governments have to make a choice, says the FAC, ''between meeting the legitimate aspirations of the people of Hong Kong for a distinctive democratic government and an agreement with the Chinese''. Confronted with such a choice, it is easy to guess what decision any populist politician in London would take. Who could challenge the righteousness of supporting a brave population's fight for democracy these days? Chris Patten and Douglas Hurd have effectively transformed the British Government's conception of its responsibilities to China and to the people of Hong Kong in the run-up to 1997. Instead of fulfilling promises made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the British Government sees itself committed to ''advancing democracy in Hong Kong'', in the face of opposition from China . But what has China done to stop the progress of democracy in Hong Kong, apart from protesting against the Patten package for violating former agreements between the two governments? Article 68 of the Basic Law, promulgated by the Chinese National People's Congress four years ago, reads: ''The Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be constituted by election. ''The method for forming the Legislative Council shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. ''The ultimate aim is the election of all the members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage.'' The Basic Law also sets out the timetable for the progress towards this ultimate aim. The number of directly-elected seats in the Legislative Council will increase term by term, and there will be no more seats returned by the controversial Election Committee by the year 2003, when the third term begins. Both the Election Committee and the functional constituencies, which Mr Patten is fighting hard to ''democratise'', are transitional measures that have been designed, by the predecessors of Mr Hurd and Mr Patten, to provide a gradual ascent from an appointed colonial government to full democracy. If this means we have to rest content for a few more years with a legislature that is not entirely elected by universal suffrage, it is a price we have to pay for certainty and stability. It is a price worth paying, considering the strife and turmoil that invariably plague other former British colonies. The Basic Law is, among other things, a result of agreements made between the Chinese and British governments. Despite the row over the Patten package, China has repeatedly vowed that Hong Kong's road to democracy, as laid down in the constitutional document, will not be changed. The failure of the two governments to agree on ''through train'' arrangements does not mean that China is set to ''dismantle democracy'' in Hong Kong in 1997, as the FAC warns. What will be ''dismantled'' are institutions set up in ways at variance with provisions in the Basic Law. THERE are good reasons for trying to avoid holding elections in 1997, and a lot had been done by the two governments in that direction prior to Mr Patten's appearance on the scene. The first post-1997 legislature will serve for a short term of two years, and in 1991 the Hong Kong Government changed the term of office of its Legislative Council from three to four years. The obvious intention was that the Legco elected in 1995 would serve until 1999, functioning as the first SAR legislature in the second half of its term. In order for this to be possible, elections in 1995 have to ''converge with the Basic Law''. Hence the necessity for agreements on both the composition of the SAR legislature and electoral arrangements in 1995. All these previous efforts are now rendered futile, simply because the British politicians in charge today are eager to show the world that it is the British Government that gives democracy to Hong Kong through the Patten package, not the Chinese through the Basic Law.