Senior officials rejected protesters' demands yesterday to be allowed to apply for the right of abode without first having to return to the mainland. Flanked by police tactical unit officers and other officials, Deputy Secretary for Security Timothy Tong Hin-ming hand-delivered the written reply to more than 50 protesters on the third day of their rally outside the Central Government Offices in Lower Albert Road. 'Mainland residents who wish to apply for the Certificate of Entitlement have to lodge their applications on the mainland,' the reply said. 'Mainland residents visiting Hong Kong on two-way permits for the purpose of visiting relatives or for sightseeing are obliged to leave Hong Kong before the permit expires.' After the brief meeting, Mr Tong threatened to take action against any mainlander who overstayed. '[Their] petition has been considered by the Chief Executive and has been rejected,' he said. 'I would also like to repeat that holders of two-way permits, should they continue to stay in Hong Kong after the permit expires, will be sent back.' The two-way permits of 62 mainlanders have expired in the past few days, Mr Tong said, but only 20 have left. He urged the rest to leave or face deportation. During the Court of Final Appeal deliberation, about 500 mainland citizens on two-way permits were allowed to overstay to await a decision. 'Since their permits have expired, they will be given two days at most to make preparations to return home,' said Assistant Director of Immigration Mak Kwai-yan. Last night, the protesters were furious at the Government's decision and continued the rally overnight. 'Family reunion is a basic human right and it is a right protected by the Basic Law and recognised by the Hong Kong court,' said a protester, who declined to give her name. Albert Ho Chun-yan, a Democratic Party legislator, representing the protesters, admitted the Government was not likely to change its position. 'What we are worried about is that the mainland application process may not be fair and transparent. If that turns out to be the case, then the SAR Government will have to bear some responsibility,' he said.