Courts urged to settle residency issues
Lo Wei, Ada Lee, Colleen Lee and Emily Tsang
The government should kick the residency issue back to the courts by not automatically giving babies of non-local parents permanent residency, says the Liberal Party - one of the latest suggestions made to tackle the influx of mainland mothers in Hong Kong.
People would challenge the government through legal means as soon as the Security Bureau stopped putting permanent residency stamps on the babies' birth certificates, the party said. Then the issue would go back to the courts, which may result in a different outcome to a 2001 case.
The party's chairwoman, Miriam Lau Kin-yee, said this would be the most direct and fastest way to stop mainland mothers giving birth in the city. It would be impractical to amend the Basic Law, she said, because the intention of the law was already clear.
In 2001, the Court of Final Appeal ruled in the Chong Fung-yuen case that Chinese citizens born in Hong Kong enjoy right of abode in the city, regardless of their parents' immigration status.
Lau said the court might make a different decision now considering the city's current situation with pregnant mainlanders.
A government spokesman did not comment on whether it would look into the proposal, but said it was working on various measures to deter mainland mothers from rushing to emergency wards to give birth.
Meanwhile, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People's Party, said it had proposed to local and mainland security bureaus that they should require mainland women to get medical endorsements before coming to the city to give birth or receive medical specialist services. Ip said that if her party's proposal was effective, there would be no need for a reinterpretation of the Basic Law.
If introduced, 'those giving birth in Hong Kong without endorsements will be in breach of conditions of stay and could be jailed', Ip said, while fixers who helped arrange their arrival could be charged with 'aiding and abetting others to act in breach of conditions of stay'.
A government spokesman said it had not received Ip's proposal.
Pan-democratic lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo also suggested the government consider penalising mainlanders for using emergency wards to give birth without prior prenatal checks. The current practice could be dangerous for babies, and such a law would have a rationale similar to that for child neglect legislation, he said.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said yesterday that the number of mainlanders giving birth in public hospitals' emergency wards has dropped by at least one-third to fewer than 20 per week in the past three weeks.
Despite the recent decrease, the 179 births last month by mainlanders was still double the 86 in January 2011. Chow said the government would announce in April whether to further lower the quota or even ban all mainlanders from giving birth in Hong Kong next year.
The government has capped the number of mainlanders allowed to have babies in the city at 34,400 - 31,000 in private hospitals and 3,400 in public hospitals.
Dr Cheung Wai-lun, the Hospital Authority's director of hospital groups, said last week that the body was evaluating next year's quota.
Hospital Authority reported to the police this many cases of fake medical documents held by mainland mothers over the past seven months