HONG KONG faces a rocky political future as China pushes ahead with plans to establish a rival administration to British rule.
Beijing is expected this week to expand its corps of prominent advisers in the colony in a move to broaden its influence and loosen British control before Hong Kong reverts to China in 1997.
China's resolve to expand its clout hardened last week after Gov. Chris Patten stood firm against Beijing's threats and pushed through the first part of his package of democratic reforms for Hong Kong.
Mr. Patten further enraged China on Friday by introducing the remainder of his reform bill and disclosing the background on eight months of failed talks over Hong Kong's political future.
Beijing vowed to ``terminate'' the three-tiered British administrative structure when it regains control in 1997 and warned that the political confrontation will overshadow economic issues such as financing of the new airport.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Fuofang said that passing Patten's political plan and revealing details of the negotiations would ``inevitably affect the cooperative atmosphere on the airport issue.''
Passage of the reforms also ended the possibility of any further talks on Hong Kong's political future, according to a statement by the Chinese government. ``The door of negotiation has been closed by the British side,'' a statement said. ``In the more than 100 years during British rule, there has been no democracy at all in Hong Kong. It is with ulterior motives that Britain pushes the Chris Patten package in Hong Kong before it leaves.''
Ignoring China's threats to dismantle Hong Kong's structure of district, municipal, and legislative administration, Patten insisted last week that ``nobody can turn the clock back'' and said the changes are aimed at ensuring upcoming fair elections.
PATTEN'S complete package of reforms, which includes lowering the voting age, broadening constituencies, and increasing the number of elected legislative seats, gives Hong Kong only a measure of representative government.
But China has bitterly opposed the changes, fearing they would undermine its future role and also spur demands for political reform at home. China has made veiled threats to retake Hong Kong before 1997 if Beijing believes the colony is in chaos, a warning that now looms larger over Hong Kong, Western analysts say.
Western diplomats in Beijing say China was unable to reach an agreement with Britain over Hong Kong because of uncertainty over ailing paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's successor. ``With so much at stake now internally in China, that paralysis could keep China from doing anything decisive in the coming months,'' a Western diplomat says.
Chinese and British defense experts of the Joint Liaison Group, which is handling technicalities on the turnover, continues to hold regularly scheduled meetings despite the political dispute. Some observers think China may decide that totally scuttling cooperation could hurt the economy and its long-term interests in Hong Kong.
Still, investors in Hong Kong's booming economy worry that China's fury over the reforms will spill over. After last week's vote, the Hong Kong stock exchange fell 3 percent. Already, China says it will move ahead with establishing its own political structure for Hong Kong before 1997. And analysts say that could undermine Britain's ability to finalize and honor contracts for the airport and other planned infrastructure projects.