Mainland-born children of Hong Kong residents could be settled in Shenzhen while awaiting permission to live in the SAR, a top official says. The idea was a possible long-term solution for helping the massive number of children arrive in an orderly fashion. The suggestion was a personal opinion and the government taskforce had yet to discuss it, the official said. An estimated 66,000 mainland children of Hong Kong permanent residents are eligible for residency under the Basic Law. If the one-way permit quota remains unchanged, it could take up to four years for all of them to settle here. The Security Branch also estimates about 5,000 children of Hong Kong residents will continue to be born in the mainland every year. The Government does not want all eligible children arriving too quickly, saying they would create a huge strain on social welfare, housing and the provision of education. A law has been passed requiring the children to obtain a certificate of entitlement from the Immigration Department. It must be affixed to a one-way permit before permanent residence can be established. But the senior official said the certificate was only a short-term solution. In the long term, the children could be settled in the Special Economic Zone while awaiting clearance to Hong Kong. Social workers could be made available to handle any problems. This would lessen the strain of waiting in the mainland because the children's parents could visit more often, the official said. Society for Community Organisation director Ho Hei-wah said the proposal was acceptable in principle, but there were problems. 'It is just like moving Hong Kong's problem to Shenzhen; you have to provide enough housing, education and medical facilities,' he said. 'Will the Government build the houses for them? Will Shenzhen agree to do that?' Mr Ho said the suggestion could be linked to Executive Councillor Henry Tang Ying-yen's concept of a business and residential zone straddling the border at Lok Ma Chau. Director of Immigration Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said yesterday she had heard of the proposal but the administration had not adopted it.