Removing automatic right of abode would deter tsunami of cross-border births

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 January, 2012, 12:00am


The present Hong Kong administration has a knack of oversimplifying complex issues and complicating issues that can be easily resolved.

One case in point is our immigration policies.

Every country has the right to safeguard its own borders, either for socio-political reasons or because of economic considerations.

The issue of mainland mothers giving birth here has figured prominently in the news. It boils down to the question of legitimate domicile in Hong Kong and the awarding of the right of abode to every child born here.

If children born here (when neither parent was a permanent resident) were not given automatic consideration of right of abode, would mainlanders still flock to the city to give birth?

I suspect that over time the numbers coming over the border would fall. If many still seek what they regard as better maternity care in Hong Kong, then government-run hospitals should accept such cases but charge similar fees as private hospitals.

At present, the imposed quotas are convoluted and unworkable. They are preventing the city from taking the opportunity of developing the growing medical tourism market.

Encouraging Hong Kong enterprises to build hospital facilities across the border is not a viable solution given the present situation, since better maternity care is not the only consideration with mainland couples. Automatic residency should not be part of any package.

Removing this right can ease shortages and the pressure faced by overworked staff in public hospitals.

This would also mean that immigration staff could avoid the time-wasting task of checking medical certificates or arresting mothers who overstayed as their pregnancy progressed.

It would also prevent extra pressure being imposed on the education, housing and medical sectors, with unplanned growth coming from more children with right of abode.

I was annoyed to hear Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen saying last month he had raised 'for the first time' Hong Kong's concerns with Premier Wen Jiabao over the mainland mothers issue and illegal deals with middlemen.

Not only is it too little, too late, but it exposes the perpetual ineptness of our officials.

James Wang, Ma On Shan