Rules applied to talented and professional mainlanders coming to Hong Kong are too harsh and need to be reviewed, according to the head of the Central Policy Unit. Professor Lau Siu-kai said the existing rules under the Admission of Talents Scheme and the Admission of Mainland Professionals Scheme, as well as the immigration law that requires a person to ordinarily live in Hong Kong for seven years before becoming a permanent resident, had deterred people from coming. Professor Lau's comments come as Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is reviewing population policy, with a report expected to be released before the end of the year. Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun, who is also a member of the Executive Council, suggested recently that some of the daily 150 one-way permit quota should be allocated to mainland professionals. Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Henry Tang Ying-yen also said on Saturday that mainland professionals should be treated fairly. But such comments have brought from human rights groups the criticism that it would undermine the chances of other mainlanders seeking family reunions. At present, mainland professionals can come to the territory under the Admission of Talents Scheme launched in 2000 and the Admission of Mainland Professionals Scheme launched in June last year. However, foreigners can come by simply applying for a work visa. So far only 238 have arrived under the talents scheme, while another 191 arrived under the professionals programme. Under the talents scheme, people are allowed to have visits from their families to Hong Kong for only a certain period, while family reunions are not allowed at all under the professionals scheme. Professor Lau, who is helping the chief secretary in his review of population policy, said there were also tight restrictions under both schemes on talented people and professionals seeking to change jobs, which made the programmes even less attractive. 'The whole world is now talking about the competition for top talent and we have an advantage in getting the cream of Chinese around the world to come here because of our stable society, a diverse culture and the metropolitan style of living. 'But people now have second thoughts before deciding to come because of these rules and red tape which mean that they will have to give up a lot. 'Should we do something to allow these people to come more easily? And should we treat mainland talent the same way as other nationals?' he asked. But he was cautious over a change in the residency rule, since it would mean amending Article 24 of the Basic Law. 'We cannot change the Basic Law in a hasty manner and this is a very serious matter,' he said. 'But we can do something in other areas to make this residency issue less of a barrier.' He said many talented people on the mainland were also worried that their residence permits might be cancelled after they had been away from their home towns for too long. At present, a mainlander's permit is cancelled after the holder has been out of the country for some years. 'We need to see whether we need to ask the central government to offer more flexibility to such talent and professionals working here and make them feel more stable,' he said.