British royal Prince Charles has taken legal action against a British newspaper after inflammatory details from his private journal were published - including a scathing attack on Chinese officials.

The prince slammed the Asian bureaucrats as "appalling old waxworks" in his 1997 diary, which he kept faithfully on an official tour of Hong Kong.

In his title he quipped, 'The Handover of Hong Kong, or The Great Chinese Takeaway,' punning on popular fast food. He also railed against the communist leadership and blasted the People's Army as corrupt.

The private papers were leaked after the heir-to-the-throne sent copies to 11 friends. The Mail on Sunday, who obtained one of these without permission, could now face prosecution for breach of confidentiality and copyright.

The paper denies the allegations, insisting the diary duplicates were widely distributed. However, royal aide MICHAEL PEAT maintains the publication had been warned repeatedly not to print the material, which made its front page on 13 November (05).