CHINA'S Minister for Public Security, Mr Tao Siju, has urged the Hongkong authorities to relax immigration controls in the run up to 1997 so as to forestall a mass-migration after the Chinese takeover. ''We must start work now to streamline and simplify entry and exit procedures [for mainland visitors to Hongkong],'' Mr Tao said in Beijing yesterday. The minister explained that by loosening controls on family visits and tourist trips now, demand to visit the territory after 1997 would be reduced. ''It is only natural that people will want to visit Hongkong after it returns to the motherland,'' Mr Tao said. Last year 365,000 mainlanders came to Hongkong on two-way permits while in 1991 about 300,000 visited the territory. Mr Tao stressed that Hongkong would not see similar scenes in 1997 to those in Berlin in 1989 when the wall came down and thousands of people flooded across the border. His ministry would continue to strictly control the flow of illegal immigrants into the territory. Last year a record of 33,703 illegal immigrants, almost all from China, were arrested in Hongkong - against 10,083 so far this year. ''Hongkong is a relatively small place so we have to guard against mass migration,'' Mr Tao said. A massive flow of migrants into Hongkong would disrupt the labour market and adversely affect the territory's stability and prosperity, Mr Tao said. However, mainland professionals should be allowed to work in Hongkong on short term contracts, he added, citing the fact that the brain drain had led to a shortage of highly qualified people in the labour market. The minister's office had already held talks with the Hongkong Immigration Department on increasing the daily quota for mainland visitors to the territory. The Government has indicated it wants to increase the number of single permits granted each day from 75 to 100. An immigration department spokesman said yesterday the immigration director might visit China next month to continue quota discussions. Speaking at a press conference sponsored by the State Council Information Office, Mr Tao also repeated his contentious assertion that some members of Hongkong's triads were ''patriotic citizens'', and that they should be brought into the fold of the greater Chinese nation. While emphasising his firm opposition to all criminal activities, Mr Tao pointed out that some triad members had renounced their previous wrong doings and therefore should be treated differently. They should be encouraged to put their patriotic desires to good use, he said. Mr Tao cited as patriotic a triad member who dispatched about 800 of his men to protect a state leader on a visit to an unnamed country. Triads were not originally crime organisations but local self-defence forces which somehow evolved into their current form, he added.