Basic Law 'last resort' to stop mainland mums
It would be difficult - and strictly a last resort - for Hong Kong to seek a reinterpretation of the Basic Law to stem the influx of mainland women giving birth in the city, the chief executive has said.
'We will consider resorting to these extreme means only if our executive measures cannot solve the problem,' Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said in a pre-recorded interview with RTHK broadcast yesterday.
It was his first public comment on whether the government should look at amending or reinterpreting the Basic Law to tackle the issue.
Tsang, who serves until June 30, told lawmakers in a question-and-answer session last month that four executive measures would be taken to help control the influx.
But he stopped short of promising to seek a reinterpretation of the Basic Law so as to deny babies born to mainland parents the right of abode.
Yesterday he said it would be arduous to amend the Basic Law, which has to be done through the National People's Congress, and the attempt 'cannot solve our problems in the short run'.
Seeking a reinterpretation of the mini-constitution from the NPC Standing Committee, meanwhile, was 'a very controversial issue', he said.
Hong Kong had passed on the names of agencies that helped arrange mainland women to cross the border - and the number plates of vehicles they used - to Guangdong Governor Zhu Xiaodan for follow-up action, Tsang said.
Addressing the current cross-border exchanges of ill will, he urged locals to be accommodating and said he believed mainlanders would try to abide by Hong Kong's rules during their visits.
He said Vice-Premier Wang Qishan had earlier told him that he was impressed by the fact that some mainland drivers of cross-border container trucks that did not observe traffic laws on the mainland obeyed local regulations when driving in the city.
Professor Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said the government was 'a bit slow in reacting to the conflicts'.
The disparity between the government's intent and the public's concerns was also making matters worse, Ma said.
'The government does not want to stop mainland mothers coming totally because it's a profitable business. But the public thinks otherwise,' he said. 'That's why many people find the executive measures to deter mainland mothers from giving birth in the city not targeting the root of the problem.'
The measures, announced on January 19, include reviewing public hospital emergency ward charges and clamping down on illegal guesthouses that accommodate heavily pregnant mainlanders.
Hotels under the Young Women's Christian Association were found promoting maternity-stay packages with posters written in simplified Chinese characters. Local internet users said the association, as a non-profit organisation, should not offer such packages as they encouraged mainland women to give birth in the city.
The hotel package has drawn a Facebook group of about 1,000 opponents since it was set up on Wednesday.
Some critics said they would boycott the association's flag-selling on February 18.
The association said it had stopped providing the packages 'to avoid misunderstanding'.
Mainland internet users have expressed anger over a Hong Kong newspaper advertisement published last week calling mainland visitors 'locusts'.