3 hostels serving mainland mums may face charges
Three hostels may be prosecuted for running illegal one-stop shops for pregnant mainland women who want to give birth in Hong Kong, the home affairs secretary says.
It is part of a co-ordinated effort by government departments to tackle the influx of mainlanders coming to the city to give birth.
The 'maternity service hostels' typically arrange for pregnant mainlanders to enter Hong Kong, provide them with accommodation until they are ready to give birth, then rush them to the emergency wards of nearby public hospitals.
About 1,453 mainlanders gave birth in emergency wards in the first 11 months of last year - almost triple the number for the whole of 2010.
Some of the guest houses, which are usually run without a licence, operate from residential flats that have been subdivided.
'These illegal hostels are using many tricks to get around the law,' Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said on his official blog yesterday. 'They get women to claim they're relatives of tenants living in the flat, then they lie and say they don't pay to stay there. There are also middlemen promoting these businesses on the internet.
'The Office of the Licensing Authority is considering a new system that would include sharing evidence [of providing the illegal services] with other departments and organising follow-up action.'
Departments involved include Rating and Valuation and Inland Revenue, Tsang said.
Government inspectors recently visited 40 suspected illegal inns as part of a crackdown. Three were found to be illegal 'maternity service hostels'.
The government will consider prosecuting them, Tsang said.
Home Affairs prosecuted 53 illegal hostel operators last year - a jump of 40 per cent from 2010.
'These illegal guest houses pose a security threat and are a nuisance to other residents. And they affect demand for nearby housing,' he said.
Using premises as a hostel or guest house without a licence is a breach of the Building Management Ordinance, Tsang said, vowing to step up inspection of the areas where illegal inns are usually located.
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has promised a co-ordinated effort among departments to tackle the influx of pregnant mainlanders. That extends to a crackdown on the middlemen or agencies who arrange for the women to stay in Hong Kong, and a blacklist on those who frequently travel over the border.
The licences of vehicle owners caught transporting pregnant mainlanders across the border would also be suspended.