Officers watching 82 in births crackdown

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am


Immigration officers are watching 82 people they believe to be helping mainland women come to Hong Kong to give birth.

As debate rages over how the city should address the influx of pregnant mainlanders, the Immigration Department says it is monitoring further suspects after securing a court conviction against a 41-year-old mainland woman. The woman had helped as many as 18 pregnant women cross the border, and hers was the second such conviction in five weeks. She was sentenced to nine weeks in jail.

Wong Yin-sang, principal immigration officer (enforcement), says the department has identified 58 mainlanders and 24 Hongkongers believed to have helped pregnant mainlanders cross the border.

'We are now closely monitoring their movement and once we have sufficient evidence, we will initiate prosecutions,' he said.

Su Biya, a 41-year-old from Guangdong, admitted breaching her conditions of stay by helping two pregnant women from the mainland give birth in the city in September and December 2010. Sha Tin Court heard that she arranged medical checks, accommodation and interpretation services for the women.

The two women had made appointments at Union Hospital in Tai Wai and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei for obstetrics services.

Su was intercepted trying to cross the border at Lok Ma Chau again on February 28 and subsequently arrested.

The agency she worked for charged between 50,000 yuan (HK$61,186) and 70,000 yuan per case. In most instances, agency fees include the cost of a hospital booking.

Wong said officers had intercepted 1,900 pregnant women at the border last year, and 540 so far this year.

'We are very concerned about such crimes and will continue to devote [resources] to combating them,' he said, adding that the department would continue to liaise with mainland law enforcement agencies to combat birth agencies.

Xu Li, 29, the first mainland agent to be convicted of helping women give birth in the city, was sentenced to 10 months in prison last month.

Controversy over the influx of pregnant mainland women was renewed last week, when Hong Kong delegates to the National People's Congress supported a call for Beijing to review the Basic Law and a legislator submitted a bill to amend immigration rules.

The number of women crossing the border grew from 600 a decade ago to 45,000 in 2010. While public hospitals have a strict quota for non-local women giving birth, the number of mainlanders doing so after turning up at emergency departments in labour increased earlier this year. The issue has prompted protests and stirred ill-feeling between Hongkongers and mainlanders.