JUDGES appointed to Hong Kong's controversial Court of Final Appeal (CFA) will not be guaranteed places on the panel once the territory reverts to mainland rule, China's top spokesman on local affairs said yesterday. In what is seen as a major blow to the Government's attempts to impose its model for the court on sceptical legislators and lawyers, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office chief Lu Ping said the Basic Law made no provision for a judges' 'through train'. As such, it would be up to Hong Kong's post-1997 administration to decide whether judges could retain their places on the CFA. Mr Lu's remarks appeared to contradict repeated Government claims that establishing the CFA on the basis of a contentious 1991 Joint Liaison Group (JLG) accord, which limits the number of foreign judges to one, would ensure its survival beyond the handover. It also dashed British hopes of winning reassurances on the CFA's continuity when the issue is raised with Chinese officials during Tuesday's JLG meeting. Hong Kong's Director of Administration, Richard Hoare, admitted last night Mr Lu's remarks would complicate the already difficult task of pushing the bill through the Legislative Council. He said Britain would ask Beijing to clarify Mr Lu's comments since they seemed, based on press reports, at odds with the Basic Law's guarantee that all judges could remain in place beyond 1997. The Legislative Council's legal representative, Simon Ip Sik-on, said the lack of a through train made any talk of supporting the CFA bill 'a waste of time'. 'Mr Lu's remarks have cast uncertainty over the bill. Why do we need to study the bill and create so many arguments if there is no guarantee of a through train?,' he asked. Democratic Party chairman, barrister Martin Lee Chu-ming, said Mr Lu's comments showed 'how pointless it is for the British Government to persist in implementing a bad deal on the court'. Mr Lu, speaking in Beijing yesterday afternoon, said the Basic Law gave no details about transitional arrangements for the judiciary. He said this meant the appointment of judges after 1997 would be decided by the legislature and Chief Executive of the Special Administrative Region (SAR), on the advice of an independent Judicial Services Commission. Senior mainland officials believe this makes it difficult for judges to ride the through train since Beijing will not recognise their endorsement by a pre-1997 Legislative Council, which is to be dissolved upon the handover. Although the Law Society Council has now agreed to support the bill, the Bar Association overwhelmingly rejected it last Thursday. Leading lawyers have repeatedly said there was 'no point' in accepting the bill without Beijing's assurance the judges would continue sitting after 1997. Mr Hoare admitted that the Government saw the 'whole purpose' of the JLG accord as providing a through train for the court. He said Britain accepted the judges might have to undergo some symbolic re-nomination process after the handover, but believed no individual appointee need be removed from the court. 'From what Mr Lu has said it seems the court itself will go through 1997 and that is a very positive development,' he said. 'But his remarks on the judges appear to contradict Article 93 of the Basic Law and we will have to seek clarification of this.' Article 93 guarantees that judges serving in Hong Kong before 1997 will 'all remain in employment and retain their seniority with pay, allowances, benefits and conditions of service no less favourable than before'. But Mr Lu also said China still recognised the 1991 JLG agreement and would like to see the court in place before 1997 - even without a through train. 'We would welcome it if the British Government could have the court up and running before the handover,' he said. But Mr Lu also raised the possibility of China making unilateral preparations of its own, saying the political sub-group of the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC) had suggested setting up a Court of Final Appeal modelled on the Basic Law. 'Since we no longer have any fantasies about Britain, we should prepare ourselves for the worst,' he said. Mr Lu again attacked Britain's refusal to countenance official contacts with the PWC. 'Why do they have to adopt a discriminatory attitude?,' he said, at a press conference to end the PWC's fourth plenary session. 'There are still all those formal documents [banning meetings with] the PWC as well as the instructions to civil servants.' He rejected suggestions that China had softened its stance towards Britain by emphasising co-operation during the just-concluded PWC session. 'We cannot place all our hopes on them, we cannot have 'impractical' illusions,' he said. PWC chairman, China's Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, stressed the need to strengthen contacts with Hong Kong people during his closing speech to the PWC yesterday. But he said only those who are 'patriotic' should be allowed to participate in the management of the SAR's affairs. 'But this definitely does not mean that we reject working with the British side. On the contrary, we welcome co-operation,' he said.