Foreign nationals who are permanent residents of the Special Administrative Region could be deported, it has been claimed. The comment, reportedly made by Hong Kong and Macau Affairs director Lu Ping during a meeting with Hong Kong's consular corps, has sparked concern that China has a different view on two key concepts in Hong Kong's immigration law - permanent residency and right of abode. It raises the possibility that foreign nationals who have become permanent residents can still be expelled if they fall foul of the law. At present, permanent residents have the right of abode, including the rights to enter, stay unconditionally and not be deported from Hong Kong. However, according to Canadian Commissioner Garrett Lambert who was at Saturday's meeting, Mr Lu said foreign nationals who were permanent residents could still be deported after 1997. He made the remark while clarifying China's policy on the nationality and residency status of Hong Kong Chinese who return after acquiring foreign citizenship. 'The consular corps came away with the impression that there is a different interpretation of the law as we know it. China seems to be making a distinction between permanent residency and right of abode,' said Mr Lambert. He has confirmed what was said with other consulate officials who are eager for clarification. Beijing recently announced that Hong Kong Chinese who return after the handover can opt to retain their status as permanent residents or declare themselves foreign nationals. If they return as Chinese nationals, they can retain their permanent residency, but will not enjoy consular protection. As foreign nationals they would retain consular protection but could only regain permanent residency by living here for seven years. Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, convenor of a sub-committee on permanent residency of the now-defunct Preliminary Working Committee, said it had worked on the assumption that the law on right of abode would remain unchanged. Tsang Yok-sing, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong and a member of the Preparatory Committee, was not aware that China might have a different view on right of abode. A Security Branch spokesman said they would raise the issue with China. 'Under the current Immigration Ordinance, a person having right of abode in Hong Kong is not deportable,' he said. 'We have yet to discuss with the Chinese side the Preparatory Committee's proposal on the right of abode. 'We will seek clarification on various matters, including the status of foreigners, i.e. non-ethnic Chinese.'