THE refusal of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director, Lu Ping, to meet the Governor is a poignant reminder of the unabating Sino-British cold war which broke out in October 1992 when the British Government made some modest political reform proposals to the Legislative Council. Mr Lu arrived yesterday for a week-long visit and is understandably pressed for time, give the horde of supplicants clamouring to see him. Whether he meets Mr Patten is of no moment, although some people have criticised his pettiness and downright lack of diplomatic etiquette. With only three years and two months to go before the Chinese Government takes over Hong Kong, there is growing anxiety among local people that arrangements for a smooth transition are not being put into place. The problem is compounded by the bitter resentment that important decisions about the future are being made without their participation. In a nutshell, Hong Kong people trust neither the Chinese nor the British governments. They feel exasperated and dismayed by the current impasse and condemn both governments for acting irresponsibly. They also feel impotent because they do not have a say over their own destiny. Reacting stormily and contemptuously to the British Government's refusal to withdraw the political reform proposals, the Chinese Government set up the so-called Second Stove - the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC), with the twin objectives of undermining the colonial administration and showing off the anointed team of yes-men and yes-women who will help to mastermind the transfer of sovereignty. As with the appointments system of the colonial government, the PWC appointments were discredited from the start. Few people believe PWC members were appointed because they have the courage to speak the truth. Instead, they were selected because they would say what Beijing wanted to hear. The people Mr Lu chooses to see this week will further underline this point. Apart from stirring up controversies, cynicism and hostility, the PWC has done little to reinforce the jittery Hong Kong people's confidence. Given the Sino-British stalemate and the virtual uselessness of the PWC, there is every reason to be deeply concerned about the transition. Mr Lu needs no reminding of the list of intractable problems of facing the colony. First and foremost is the election of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) legislature and chief executive. Since the Chinese Government has said it would dismantle Legco in 1997, the Hong Kong people are entitled to know whether the first SAR legislature would be democratically elected or just handpicked by Beijing. The same applies to the selection of the chief executive, an important issue which has not been discussed. The localisation of UK laws extended to Hong Kong and the adaptation of all laws to ensure they comply with the Basic Law is a mammoth task which may not be completed in three years. Should that happen, Hong Kong will face a legal vacuum. It is amazing to see the complacent business community not uttering a word of concern. Perhaps they are intent on cutting their own deals with the Chinese and think the legal system is irrelevant! WITH rising concern on human rights issues, China must declare whether it will accede to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, both covenants will continue to apply in Hong Kong after 1997, but if China is not a party it will have no obligation to report to the UN on Hong Kong's behalf on the covenants' implementation. Civil service morale is another issue which must be urgently addressed. Recent statements by PWC members that civil servants should be required to declare whether they want to work for the SAR government have caused unease and alarm. The question of whether half a million local people who have acquired foreign citizenship will have the right of permanent residence in the SAR is also very unsettling, particularly for the middle class. With the minds of Chinese leaders preoccupied with jockeying for power when Deng Xiaoping dies, it is to be hoped that Mr Lu's visit helps to focus their attention on the Hong Kong question.