RELAXING the 10-year residency requirement for election candidates would allow nationals outside the territory, including mainland Chinese, a bigger say in polls, legislator Jimmy McGregor said yesterday. His comments were made after the Government rejected any change to the election laws in the run-up to the Legislative Council elections in September. Mr McGregor, who will bow out of politics at the end of the Legco session in July, told the constitutional affairs panel the residency requirement was necessary to ensure the political structure did not fall into the hands of people who had allegiance to other governments. With the support from the unions, mainlanders could easily get elected to Legco, he said. He described the 10-year requirement as 'appropriate and reasonable' to measure one's commitment to Hong Kong. His Legco colleague, Andrew Wong Wang-fat, however, said the concern was outdated. '[When the rules were made] in the 1980s, people did worry that comrades from the mainland would come to Hong Kong and participate in the elections. Nowadays, voters know more about public affairs,' he said. Mr Wong proposed the residency requirement be cut to three years. He noted that one has to reside in Hong Kong for seven years before even qualifying as a voter. Yesterday's discussion was sparked by the court's ruling on the candidacy of dissident Lau Shan-ching. Mr Lau, who had been jailed for 10 years in China, was originally disqualified from district board elections because he failed to fulfil the residency requirement. The decision was later overturned in court. Democratic Party member James To Kun-sun said a more liberal approach should be adopted on the candidacy requirements, and it should be up to voters to decide whether to support a candidate who had left Hong Kong for a long time. During the meetings, legislators also called for more specific guidelines on the meaning of 'ordinary residency'. But the calls were dismissed by the Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Lee Lap-sun, who said any fundamental changes to the law would affect work on the upcoming Legco elections. Mr Lee said the 10-year requirement had been interpreted flexibly, taking into account the situation of individual candidates. The Government would look at the reasons for one's departure from Hong Kong, and whether one still maintains close ties with the territory when examining eligibility, he said. It would not be viable to review the election law at this stage when there were only five months left before the Legco election in September, he said. He said the Boundary and Election Commission had set up a committee to address the problem.