More than 100 mainland women who gave birth here were arrested for breach of stay in just three months late last year, the security minister disclosed yesterday.
The figure came to light as the Legislative Council vetoed a motion by the Civic Party's Ronny Tong Ka-wah calling for more action to assert Hong Kong's 'core values' amid escalating conflicts with mainlanders.
Tong, a pan-democrat, asked the government to suspend quotas for pregnant wives of non-local men and tighten entry restrictions on them, and also to shelve a plan to allow more mainland cars into the city.
Government officials were swift to offer reassurance on the issue. Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said more than 100 pregnant mainland women were prosecuted between October and December. He also pledged to reinforce checkpoint inspections to bar unregistered mothers-to-be from sneaking in.
The Immigration Department had in the past five years rejected entry to 10,000 such women and given their information to the mainland authorities, he said.
Secretary for Food and Hygiene Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, meanwhile, estimated the number of births to mainland mothers married to non-locals had dropped 20 per cent this year compared with the start of 2011.
Acting secretary for housing and transport Yau Shing-mu said the cross-border private cars quota scheme - which has ignited public demonstrations over the past two weekends - 'does not clash with the government's aim ... to control the total number of cars [in Hong Kong]'.
Even government-friendly lawmakers had doubts about the scheme, however. Tourism sector legislator Paul Tse Wai-chun said: 'The right policy at the wrong time ought to be reviewed.'
Liberal Party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee urged the government to provide more education to visitors about local culture and order.
However, many of Tong's colleagues, even some from the pan-democratic spectrum, said his proposals could fuel animosity.
His motion was consequently vetoed under opposition from the functional constituencies, comprising mainly pro-government lawmakers.
'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, said the legislature - with only half of its members directly elected - was not qualified to discuss 'core values'. 'This is where, let me quote Mr [George] Orwell: 'All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others'.'
The decline in the number of births to mainland mothers married to non-locals this year