THE post-1997 chief executive should be chosen by mid-1996 to remedy the damage done by a liberal-dominated legislature, a key figure in Beijing's appointed working panel on transitional matters said. Professor Lau Siu-kai, a member of the political affairs sub-group of the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC), said the group had considered the timetable for the emergence of the future chief executive. According to the Basic Law, a Preparatory Committee is to be formed in early 1996. The body is responsible for setting up the 400-strong Select Committee which will return the future chief executive. Professor Lau said the group considered it best for the chief executive to ''emerge'' in mid-1996, so he would have at least one year to remedy the legislative and policy changes made by the 1995 legislature, which was likely to be dominated by the liberal camp. Another key job for him would be to pick suitable candidates to form a ''ruling coalition'' when he assumed office and to assist in the preparatory work for the handover. They would take up posts in all-important statutory bodies and advisory committees as well as the Executive Council. ''If the 1995 Legislative Council is controlled by democrats, people will be eager to know who will be in charge of the territory after 1997 to reduce their worries,'' he said. ''This might make the uncertainty more bearable for them.'' According to the mini-constitution, the chief executive will be chosen by consultation or election after consultation. The emergence of a ''shadow government'' seemed inevitable because the chief executive's comments on government policies would be heavily weighed, he said. Professor Lau, however, believed Governor Chris Patten would adopt a co-operative attitude towards the future leader of Hong Kong. ''Mr Patten would not want to ruin Sino-British relationships a year before Britain leaves the territory. ''Moreover, as 1997 approaches, there would be great resistance from the 190,000-strong civil servants if the Governor attempted to challenge their future boss,'' he said. Professor Lau said China's present and future think-tanks, such as the PWC, the Preparatory Committee and Hong Kong affairs advisers, would provide a significant pool of chief executive candidates. ''These bodies are in fact a channel for China to groom their own ruling elites. ''How could China judge their trustworthiness and competence if they are not working in China's political mechanism?'' he asked. But Professor Lau did not see a major reshuffle on the part of the advisory bodies and statutory bodies. In an effort to enlist community support for the post-1997 leader, China would tend to co-operate with Britain on economic and social aspects.