Outgoing immigration chief Lai Tung-kwok has not ruled out the possibility of becoming secretary for security but says joining the private sector is not an option. Mr Lai, who has held the post since 2002, said he had achieved targets set six years ago and it was the right time to hand over to a successor. The director, who will take pre- retirement leave from Monday, said he had to take a break with his family before moving on. 'Given the appropriate opportunity, I would like to continue serving the public in other forms, such as voluntary work, but it is too early to tell,' he said at a farewell gathering with the media yesterday. Asked if he would be appointed the next security minister, Mr Lai said: '[The question] is a bit too imaginative. Nobody knows what the future is.' Speculation of a ministerial reshuffle in Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's cabinet has been fuelled for months with some ministers, including Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong, stepping down by the end of the year. Mr Lee and his predecessor, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, had both served as director of immigration before being appointed as principal officials. Mr Lai ruled out starting a new career in the business sector, saying he would neither start his own business nor join a private company. 'Doing business is beyond my expertise,' said the director, who has served the department for 34 years. He reiterated the need for more staff to ease the pressure on frontline officers at checkpoints. 'We need quite a lot of staff, but the scale of recruitment will depend on how much computerisation can help [to shoulder the workload].' Mr Lai said technological advancement would be a major direction in the future and hoped the department could achieve a 'paperless' process for document applications. Looking back, he said he could not forget December 2004 when the tsunami hit. 'The disaster came so quickly and so many Hong Kong people were soon in distress,' he said. A team comprising 150 staff - the largest ever - was sent to affected countries to provide assistance, which Mr Lai said led to an improvement in the department's emergency response system. The provision of visa-free access for Hong Kong passport holders - granted by 135 countries or territories so far - was one of his most satisfactory achievements. Mr Lai will be succeed by Simon Peh Yun-lu.