Bloomberg News

Hong Kong’s Leung Seeks to Ban Births by Mainland Women

April 17, 2012

Hospital staff attend to new born babies in the nursery ward of the Union Hospital in Hong Kong. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Hospital staff attend to new born babies in the nursery ward of the Union Hospital in Hong Kong. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Hong Kong Chief Executive-Elect Leung Chun-ying plans to bar mainland Chinese women from giving birth in the city next year after an influx of mothers-to-be strained resources and stoked public discontent.

The ban will apply to private hospitals, Leung told reporters yesterday. Children born to mainland parents won’t be guaranteed local permanent residency, he also said.

An influx of mainland Chinese has spurred protests against the current government, led by Chief Executive Donald Tsang, as residents in the city of 7.1 million face increasing competition for property and schooling. The number of Hong Kong-born babies almost doubled in the decade to 2010 because of 232,536 infants born to mainland mothers, according to the city’s Census and Statistics Department.

“If you contrast his very determined position with Donald Tsang’s wishy-washy position, people would say -- look, the incoming chief executive demonstrates leadership, has definite views and knows how to deal with difficult issues like this,” said Cheung Chor-Yung, a senior teaching fellow at the City University of Hong Kong.

Leung, who will take office on July 1, is seeking to win popular support after the city’s 1,193-member election committee selected him as chief executive last month. He needs to navigate the growing friction between residents and mainland Chinese, while promoting closer economic ties with China.

Competition Concern

Chinese purchases of property have helped made Hong Kong the world’s most expensive place to buy a home after eight years of rising prices. Mainland buyers accounted for at least 19 percent of transactions last year, according to Centaline Property Agency Ltd., the city’s biggest closely held realtor.

The number of mainland women giving birth in the city increased after a 2000 Court of Final Appeal decision meant children born in Hong Kong of mainland Chinese parents are entitled to residency. Residency rights would also entail them to public services, including local schools.

Leung yesterday said his government will study the ruling.

An influx of mainland mothers has also pushed neonatal intensive care units beyond capacity, and forced some mothers to resort to emergency wards, doctors said.

York Chow, Hong Kong’s food and health secretary, agreed last June to cap the number of non-residents allowed to give birth in private hospitals 2012 at 31,000. The city also cut the quota for foreigners giving birth in public hospitals to 3,400 this year, down from 10,000 in 2011.

Mainlanders delivered 40,648 babies in 2010 in Hong Kong.

Health-care Industry

“We are now holding discussions with private hospitals, and at the same time continuing communication with the chief executive-elect,” the Food and Health Bureau said today in an e-mailed statement.

Deliveries of mainland Chinese babies isn’t the “proper way” to develop the city’s health-care industry, and it won’t help resolve the issue of Hong Kong’s aging population, Leung said.

The proposed ban won’t apply to mainland mothers who have a resident husband, a spokeswoman for Leung’s office said. The spokeswoman said the new government has yet to decide on the quota for foreigners giving birth in public hospitals next year.

More than 1,500 protesters took to the streets on Jan. 15 to oppose the growing number of Chinese births, Agence France- Presse reported. An advertisement in the local Apple Daily newspaper in February depicted mainland Chinese mothers who entered Hong Kong to give birth as locusts devouring the city’s resources, and demanded the government stop them from “invading” the city.

Leung “is highly motivated to do this to try and raise his extremely low level of popularity,” said Ming Sing, associate professor of social science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

More than 5,000 people protested in Hong Kong on April 1 against alleged meddling by the Chinese government in the election March 25 that saw Leung chosen as chief executive.

To contact the reporters on this story: Natasha Khan in Hong Kong at nkhan51@bloomberg.net; Rachel Evans in Hong Kong at revans43@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jason Gale at j.gale@bloomberg.net; Tan Hwee Ann at hatan@bloomberg.net


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