Thousands of Chinese officials posted to Hong Kong might still be able to obtain permanent residency even if the law is tightened, according to legislators. A proposed amendment to exclude mainland officials from qualifying under the seven-year residency rule could also be in contravention of the Basic Law, the lawmakers warned. About 7,000 mainland officials working in Chinese enterprises, the Liaison Office and the Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would become eligible to apply for permanent residency, under the Basic Law provisions. Since the handover, about 1,300 officials have benefited from the rule. Speaking at Legco's security panel yesterday, Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said that allowing mainland officials working in Hong Kong to settle in the territory was inappropriate. She said the Immigration Ordinance would be amended to exclude mainlanders from the seven-year residency rule. The change would give Beijing the flexibility to deploy officials to Hong Kong for periods of more than seven years, she added. But Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, who represents the legal profession in Legco, said she was worried the amendment might not effectively restrict Chinese officials from obtaining residency. 'You are attempting to limit the Basic Law by domestic legislation. How are you to do that?' she asked. Independent legislator and barrister Audrey Eu Yuet-mee also warned such a move could have human rights implications. But Mrs Ip maintained that the proposed changes were in line with the Basic Law. The longer it took to amend the law, the more mainland officials would be granted permanent residency, she warned. The amendment bill is due to be gazetted next Friday and tabled to Legco for first reading by the end of the month. Investigations by the Immigration Department concluded that the tender for the smart identity card project had not been compromised, officials said. Fears had been raised after one of the bidding companies recruited former privacy commissioner Stephen Lau Ka-men - the Government's former key adviser on the project's privacy issues. Mr Lau has denied having any involvement in the tendering process. The Deputy Director of Immigration, Eric Wong Tat-po, said yesterday that Mr Lau's company had not been given additional information about the project. The tender is due to be awarded early next year.