BRITAIN and China are poised to lock horns in a new row, this time over a controversial move to drop the so-called 'good relations' clause from the Film Censorship Ordinance. China's de facto embassy in Hong Kong yesterday demanded talks on the issue at the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG). The Culture and Sports Department of Xinhua (the New China News Agency) said in a statement last night that the proposed deletion was a 'major policy' matter that should only be determined by the JLG after discussion. The South China Morning Post revealed on Saturday that the Government was ready to allow an amendment proposed in a private member's bill by legislator Martin Lee Chu-ming to remove the clause. Under Section 10.2 (C) of the ordinance, censors are empowered to ban a film if 'there is a likelihood that the exhibition of the film would seriously damage good relations with other territories'. The ordinance, enacted in 1988, was used to 'excise' a Taiwanese production entitled Mainland 1989, which touched on the June 4 Tiananmen massacre. A Xinhua spokesman said changes to the Film Censorship Ordinance would impinge upon the cultural policy of the future Special Administrative Region (SAR) government. Some provisions of the ordinance were related to the relationship between Hong Kong and its neighbouring countries and regions. It would have a bearing on the ties between the People's Republic and its neighbours after 1997, the spokesman said. Government Information Co-ordinator Kerry McGlynn said they had yet to receive any formal request from China for talks on the issue at the JLG. 'If received, we will of course treat it in the normal way. But we've made it clear that while we do not see the need to amend the clause, we will not oppose moves to amend it,' he said. Mr McGlynn said the administration appreciated the reason behind the proposed amendment. A senior Chinese source claimed the government move was part of its strategy to make the future SAR more difficult to govern. The source cited other far-reaching changes, such as the government initiative to boost information access to the public and the gradual easing of restrictions over the activities of pro-Taiwan groups, such as Double Tenth celebrations, in the territory. The Chinese believe these are not individual incidents, but part of a British strategy in the final years of its colonial rule. 'Why did they not do so in the past 100 years or so, instead of only in the last few years of its rule? We cannot but come to the conclusion that it is trying to create trouble for the future SAR government,' the source said. He argued that the Government was obliged under the Sino-British Joint Declaration to keep the present systems unchanged. The amendment, to be forwarded by Mr Lee, chairman of the Democratic Party, is almost certain to be passed by the Legislative Council. Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee of the Liberal Party - the second largest faction in Legco - indicated last night that they would not oppose Mr Lee's amendment. Given that the clause did not make much impact in the past few years, she said it should not stay on the statute book. A core leader of the pro-China Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, Cheng Kai-nam, also said they would not oppose the move. He said there should not be double standards over media censorship as the 'good relations' clause had only applied to films but not printed media such as newspapers. But Mr Cheng stressed that whether provisions on film censorship would remain intact after 1997 depended on whether they were in line with provisions in the Basic Law that prohibited activities that undermined state security. Mr Lee has argued that there was no need to impose political censorship of films or media. Critics have also said the clause was not in line with the Bill of Rights. Government officials were adamant that the article was 'not inconsistent' with the Bill of Rights. But the administration had taken note of the vocal demand in the community for a deletion of the provision. 'We consider it is not appropriate to oppose the proposal,' an official said. The Government believed that the maintenance of good foreign relations was an integral part of a country's security and that restrictions on free speech aimed at preserving national security were permissible under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.