Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong public hospitals may stop admitting foreign pregnant women next year, as an influx of mothers from China giving birth in the former British colony strained facilities and spurred local protests.
The quota for foreigners giving birth in public hospitals this year is 3,400, down from 10,000 in 2011, Cheung Wai-lun, director of hospital groups at the Hospital Authority said in an interview broadcasted by Radio Television Hong Kong yesterday. The quota may be scrapped completely next year, he said.
Babies born in the city almost doubled in the decade to 2010, thanks to 232,536 infants born to mainland mothers, according to the city’s Census and Statistics Department. The influx is pushing the city’s neonatal intensive care units to beyond designed capacity and forcing some mothers to resort to emergency wards for childbirth, doctors said.
“Our priority is to serve the people of Hong Kong,” Cheung said. “We are trying to safeguard local pregnant women’s rights to publicly funded medical services and facilities.”
The influx of Chinese is stoking social tension as Hong Kong residents face increasing competition for property and school places. Mainland buyers accounted for at least 19 percent of home transactions last year, according to Centaline Property Agency Ltd., the city’s biggest closely held realtor.
More than 1,500 protesters, including pregnant women, took to the streets on Jan. 15 to oppose the growing number of mainland Chinese giving birth in the city, Agence France-Presse reported. The education bureau said that 9,899 children crossed the border from China to attend school in the 2010-2011 year.
The Apple Daily newspaper, controlled by Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, today ran a full-page anonymous advertisement demanding the government stop mainland pregnant women from “invading” the city. The advertisement has a picture of a locust superimposed on a hilltop overlooking Hong Kong’s skyline.
The government is considering taking steps to address the rising number of pregnant women from mainland China, Chief Executive Donald Tsang said earlier this month.
The government is “highly concerned” about the increase, and may roll out measures on border control with China, he said.
A 2000 Court of Final Appeal decision ensures that all children of mainland Chinese parents born in Hong Kong are entitled to residency. The U.S. is among few developed nations that grant automatic citizenship to children born within its borders.
--With assistance by Billy Chan in Hong Kong. Editors: Tan Hwee Ann, Andreea Papuc
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