FIVE expatriate civil servants are to be demoted under the government's controversial localisation policy, a furious union leader revealed last night. President of the Association of Expatriate Civil Servants (AECS) Royston Griffey said all those affected were senior engineers, with one, demoted from senior structural engineer to structural engineer, planning to take the government to court. The issue is expected to be raised at a meeting of AECS members on Wednesday, and Mr Griffey said the association had pledged to support any of its members who took legal action against the government. But Secretary for the Civil Service Michael Sze Cho-chueng rejected the threat of legal action, saying it was taxpayers rather than expatriates who suffered under the localisation package. He warned that, even if the expatriates won their court case, it would do nothing to help their cause. The expatriates are being demoted under a revised version of the government's localisation policy. This settled the year-long dispute over expatriates switching to local terms by demoting those who wanted to transfer by one rank, if a suitable local could be found to fill the position. However, the demoted officer is allowed to retain his old, higher, salary. Mr Sze revealed the Government had received more than 130 applications from expatriates wanting to switch to local terms, most of which have already been processed. A Civil Service Branch source said more than 50 had so far been approved, but many beneficiaries had not yet been notified since the government was still deciding whether to demote them. Mr Sze last night escalated the war of words, saying the new package did no harm to expatriates, while taxpayers suffered from having to pay their high salaries. ''Although they [the expatriate] are demoted by one rank, they will still retain their present salary. If there's anyone who can claim to suffer damages, it should be the taxpayers,'' he said. ''The new package will provide promotion opportunities for local civil servants but at the same time keep jobs for expatriate staff.'' Mr Sze insisted the new package did not violate Hong Kong law, but admitted it was unfortunate if the Government was sued by the expatriates. ''I believe people would like to see an efficient team of civil servants instead of any unhappy incidents during the transitional period,'' he said. ''This is not a wise solution to the problem; they could not get any advantages even if they win [their suit].'' Mr Sze will meet legislators on Thursday week to reveal details of the applications received and approved under the new scheme.