Mainland baby issue a top concern for minister

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am


Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said yesterday that resolving legal issues regarding babies born to mainland mothers in Hong Kong would be a top priority in his five-year term.

But he said seeking an interpretation of Basic Law clauses covering those issues was not an appropriate solution.

Speaking on a radio programme, Yuen said his team had begun reviewing ways to alleviate the crisis over mainland mothers giving birth in the city without resorting to a controversial appeal to the central government.

'Ultimately this is a legal issue. To solve the problem, it should be by legal means,' Yuen said. 'This is an important work priority for me. We are looking at different options and assessing them. I hope that the problem can be solved within the city's legal system.'

The controversy stems from a 2001 Court of Final Appeal ruling that all babies born to mainland mothers in Hong Kong have right of abode. Since then, an estimated 170,000 such babies have been born in the city, bringing fears such an influx will strain public services.

Some believe the government should amend the Immigration Ordinance, while others think it would be better to ask the National People's Congress Standing Committee to interpret the Basic Law.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has taken a hard line on the issue, saying in April that his administration might refuse residency to mainland babies born in city hospitals.

He has proposed not allowing private hospitals to take bookings for births by mainland mothers at all next year.

Leung, however, has said he plans to stick to legal channels to address the issue, suggesting he would not seek Beijing's intervention.