'Zero' quota for mainland mums
Chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying said yesterday mainland women who have not got a Hong Kong husband will not be allowed to give birth at private hospitals next year.
He also said children born to mainland parents would not be guaranteed residency.
The influx of mainland mothers-to-be, who are accused of squeezing resources available to Hong Kong parents, was a key issue in last month's chief executive election.
Leung's warning that the quota for mainland births at private hospitals next year would be 'zero' shocked hospital bosses.
It also sparked fears that some hospitals which have invested heavily in obstetrics may be forced to close.
In an apparent break with incumbent Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who identified medicine as one of six key industries for the city, Leung said: 'Providing obstetric services to mainland women is not the correct way to develop the medical industry.'
Leung did not specify how he would implement his plan to scrap the automatic right of abode, a right that was upheld in a Court of Final Appeal ruling in 2001.
'The Hong Kong community has come to a common consensus that, no matter whether we use administrative measures or seek legal methods, these non-locals' babies should not become permanent residents,' Leung said. Regarding mainland mothers, Leung said: 'I cannot guarantee that those babies born in Hong Kong in 2013 can gain [residency].'
Private hospital bosses, who had been in talks with the Food and Health Bureau, had expected a quota of between 20,000 and 25,000 for next year, down from 31,000 this year.
Public hospitals allowed 3,400 places for mainland mothers this year. Quotas are due to be announced at the end of this month - two months before Leung takes office. A spokesman for the bureau said it understood and respected Leung's views and would continue to communicate with him.
Leung said his speech was not intended to interfere with or pressurise the current administration. 'I am only saying what will happen in 2013, after I have taken the post [of chief executive],' he said.
Asked about the possibility of solving the right-of-abode issue by asking Beijing for an interpretation of the Basic Law, Leung said: 'Seeking interpretation of the law is one of the ways to solve the problem. But ... if it can be solved by another legal method, it is better to do it that way.'
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress ruled in 1999 that only mainland children who had at least one Hong Kong permanent resident parent when they were born would be given right of abode. But the 2001 case of Chong Fung-yuen, a three-year-old boy born to parents living in the city on two-way permits, changed that.
Leung's options, experts say, include changing the Immigration Ordinance, forcing a new test case or an administrative solution - stopping the issue of identity cards to the children of non-local parents.
Leung did not say which option he favoured, or whether the changes would apply to the children with a local father.
Private Hospitals Association chairman Dr Alan Lau Kwok-lam said some hospitals may face closure if they are banned from serving mainland women. He estimates that the hospitals will lose 28,000 patients each year if 'transit mums' - mothers without a Hong Kong spouse or who are not local residents - are banned from giving birth there.