SECRETARY for the Civil Service Michael Sze has been quite forceful in defence of the principle that expatriate officers switching to local terms should only need to demonstrate an ability to communicate Chinese if the job demands it. Examples he has given of jobs that qualify under the 'English will do' category include air traffic controllers and English language broadcasters on government-run Radio Television Hong Kong. But after a tiring run-in with Legco's Public Service Panel and a press-conference on the subject, Mr Sze suddenly seemed to be having difficulty minding his language. RTHK reporter Cliff Bale, hoping to get an answer for broadcast in Mr Sze's own English rather than the undramatic tones of the Legco interpreter, tried to pin him down on legislator Cheung Man-kwong's demand for a list of posts needing Chinese. 'I thought I replied to it very skilfully,' said Mr Sze testily, 'and I think you should have listened to the interpretation.' 'Can you answer in English, please?,' asked the intrepid Bale, undeterred. 'I replied to it in Cantonese, which was simultaneously interpreted in English, so I am not going to repeat it,' came the curt response. No wonder no RTHK expatriates have yet applied for local terms. Terms of endearment they would not be. ONE more effective way of showing one's sincerity in the localisation stakes might be to apply for Chinese citizenship. Since Chinese-ness is generally thought to be based on having some trace of Chinese ethnicity, this may seem a tall order for the average foreigner. But experts in these matters point out there are plenty of Chinese citizens on the fringes of the motherland without a drop of Han blood in their bodies. We were discussing this matter with Hong Kong Affairs Adviser and Hong Kong Progressive Alliance Chairman Ambrose Lau, a man who includes the title China Appointed Attesting Officer among the long list on his closely printed visiting card. Inevitably the conversation strayed to the plight of Secretary for Transport Haider Barma, a Cantonese speaking local born and bred who just happens not to be ethnically Chinese. What would be his chances of getting Chinese citizenship and becoming eligible to stay on as a Policy Secretary? No problem, declared Mr Lau. If Mr Barma cared to apply, he, Ambrose Lau, would personally act for free on the Secretary's behalf. Can you refuse an offer like that, Mr Barma? DAVID Li is the man fellow Legislative Councillors think of whenever they drink a toast to absent friends. Now the occasional legislator is apparently adopting a similarly 'with you in spirit' approach to his participation in the Preliminary Working Committee. Mr Li, a long-time opponent of the Hong Kong dollar's peg to its US namesake, spoke out loudly in favour of its abolition after 1997 at last month's PWC economic sub-group. But his was something of a lone voice. Perhaps that is why during last week's informal PWC seminar on the subject at the Hong Kong Hilton, Mr Li was caught skulking in the corridors. Wasn't he intending to join the meeting? No, said Mr Li. Sure enough he was later spotted in the Hilton barber's shop having his hair done. THOSE friendly people over at the New Airport Projects Co-ordination Office (NAPCO) are as helpful as ever. A US research team has been in Hong Kong helping the University of Science and Technology and the Royal Observatory set up a $115 million, state-of-the-art wind-shear warning system. This will tell pilots coming into and leaving Chek Lap Kok of any turbulence in their path. Always receptive to good ideas, we wanted to talk to the boffins. The Royal Observatory said we should ask NAPCO for permission. After a day's deliberation, NAPCO sent us a very nice letter. Thanks for your interest, it said, but there is nothing worth reporting for now. The researchers have nothing to say. Now, this is not a problem we've ever come across when speaking to US scientists. So we rang the researchers direct - only to be told they'd be delighted to talk to us, if only NAPCO would let them. Unfortunately, it was written into their contracts they couldn't talk to us without permission. We appealed directly to the Governor, pointing out the impression this must be making and calling for more open Government. A reply came equally directly - from NAPCO. NAPCO offered its apologies. The US scientists, it assured us, really did not have anything to report at this time. USUALLY, new police equipment is tested in strictly controlled conditions. Impromptu experiments, on the other hand, can lead to tears. Senior police discovered this themselves in the corridors around top cop Eddie Hui Ki-on's office. Eager to experience the pain of 'pepper fog' - or Oleo Resin Capsicuma - a superintendent asked to be sprayed but it had dire consequences.