IN the past decade views on the Joint Declaration have ranged from disillusionment and disappointment to sustained optimism. Former chief secretary Sir David Akers-Jones, who has spent his career in the territory, remains bullish about Hong Kong's prospects saying it is destined to be one of the great cities of the Pacific Rim. The Cantonese-speaking retired official, who accepted a Chinese offer to be a Hong Kong Affairs Adviser, points to the economic dynamism of the territory as well as its blossoming ties with the mainland at all levels. Retired since 1987, Sir David, 66, was in government for almost three decades, serving as acting governor when Sir Edward Youde died during a trip to Beijing in 1986. Sir David recalled: 'We were all relieved when a fairly simple framework of agreement was turned into a very detailed Joint Declaration between the two sides. It was a great achievement. It was really a meeting of minds.' He described the 1997 pact as a checklist for the future and said it was a major step for China to agree to have a fully-constituted legislature after 1997. But because of the lack of definitions of the term 'elections' there have been twists and turns in the Sino-British row over political reform. When the 'through-train' deal was struck in 1990 the situation seemed hopeful, but when Governor Chris Patten unveiled his political blueprint in 1992 the acrimony that followed brought about the derailment of the through-train early this year. 'It's a pity that we lost the through-train,' Sir David said. 'But it's not disastrous . . . fresh elections will be held after 1997. It will be slightly different. Only marginal but important changes. 'In many places government changes from time to time. We did not expect that there would be a through-train . . . unfortunately it's proved to be something which is unattainable.' Director of Administration Richard Hoare, who has served three governors as private secretary, was working under the Foreign Office when the deal was struck. 'It was well-received and people were relieved when it was published,' he said. 'It's a quite remarkable document, but with grey areas. Hong Kong will be all right if it is implemented in its letter and spirit.' The 13 years of transition represented such a long period that it was impossible for the time to pass without disagreement. 'It's inevitable that you have different cultures and systems and a lot of suspicion,' Mr Hoare said. '[Events in] 1989 did not help.' More importantly, he believes that the territory and China are no longer the same. 'Hong Kong has changed a lot,' he said. 'People place more demands on government. It's a much more political city. The position of China in the world has changed as well.' Mr Hoare, 44, faces the difficult choice of whether to stay in the civil service, given the prospect of no promotion because of the localisation policy. 'I don't know whether I will still be here [in 1997],' he said. 'Whatever happens in the last three years [of British rule] will be difficult. The Government plans beyond 1997 and China wants to contribute to the SAR.' A former BBC correspondent, who returned to the territory in June 1984 to join the Far Eastern Economic Review, Emily Lau Wai-hing says she has been suspicious of the promises of a 'high degree of autonomy' and 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong' ever since they were first delivered. 'In November [1984,] I wrote in FEER, saying that there were lots of problems with the Joint Declaration, things would not turn out that smooth,' she said. It was her doubts over the viability of the agreement that led to her challenging, on moral grounds, the decision to hand over five million people to the communist regime - a subject she raised with Lady Thatcher, then the British prime minister, from the floor of a packed press room. 'I still remember her [Lady Thatcher] reply,' Ms Lau said. 'Everyone in Hong Kong is happy with the agreement, you may be a solitary exception. 'Now, after 10 years, it is obvious that the agreement is not going to work. You need reasons to be confident. I think people were cheating themselves when they pledged their confidence in the document 10 years ago.' A teacher at the pro-China Pui Kiu College in 1984, Tsang Yok-sing said he never imagined Sino-British relations would plunge to their present depths. Mr Tsang, who arrived in the political spotlight as leader of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong in 1992, said: 'Like everyone in Hong Kong, I was glad to see such an agreement being initialled, it was a very well-written agreement and it effectively bridged the differences between China and Britain concerning the future of Hong Kong.' But, Mr Tsang said, the political reform programme initiated by the Governor Chris Patten went against its spirit of co-operation. Embroiled recently in a controversy over his plans to emigrate following the June 4, 1989, crackdown on student protesters in Beijing, the DAB chief admitted that his confidence had fluctuated. 'At first my aspirations were very high,' he said. 'As the drafting of the Basic Law began, we saw a rare unity of views in society. I was glad to see that even people with varying views could sit together and have dialogues. 'Following the June 4 incident, I was so depressed. I could not see how China and Britain could bridge the gap . . . the atmosphere [between the two countries] was of a confrontational nature. I was so disappointed. That was when I made my application for emigration to Canada.' His confidence returned when he saw that China was continuing its open-door policies. Chairman of the Airport Consultative Committee, Wong Po-yan cherishes the post-1984 era when China and Britain enjoyed mutual trust. A former appointed legislator, Mr Wong still remembers clearly the VIP treatment he received as a member of the Hong Kong delegation to the 35th Chinese national day reception in Beijing. 'I was one of the 16 people sent by the Hong Kong Government. At that time Beijing treated us very well; we were seated just right behind the foreign ambassadors,' he said. 'That's clearly a sign of respect.' Come the 45th Chinese national day, Hong Kong officials are not likely to enjoy the same kind of reception as Mr Wong and his colleagues. Mr Wong was sorry about the changes to Hong Kong following the arrival of Mr Patten, but Hong Kong people were capable of achieving a smooth transition on their own, he said, 'Hong Kong people have no choice, be it sunny or rainy, we have to go ahead. 'We have to rely on ourselves. The road ahead is rugged and rough, but I believe Hong Kong people can manage to walk through.'