Zero quota on mainland mums in hospitals 'bad for economy'
Preventing mainland mothers from having babies here could harm medical tourism and is not a long-term fix, warns Basic Law expert
Patsy Moy and Stuart Lau
Government measures to stop floods of mainland mothers visiting Hong Kong to give birth could hurt the city's medical tourism industry, a member of the Basic Law Committee has warned.
Senior Counsel Johnny Mok Shiu-luen also told the South China Morning Post that using administrative means, such as the zero-quota policy for mainland mothers in the city's maternity wards, would not resolve the legal right-of-abode issue.
Mok was speaking for the first time since last week's Court of Final Appeal hearing involving the controversial right-of-abode issue for foreign domestic workers, which is expected to have an impact on the residency rights of children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents.
He said using administrative measures to handle a legal issue, would not solve the problem in the long term.
"Not only does [the zero quota policy] not provide a permanent solution, it could bring adverse impacts to Hong Kong," Mok said. "For instance, if Hong Kong wants to aggressively develop medical tourism, including its maternity services, for mainlanders and visitors from other places the right-of-abode issue needs to be addressed.
"Medical tourism can bring a lot of economic benefits to Hong Kong. However, the administrative means that ban the entry [of potential users of medical services] hampers the development of this industry."
But Dr Kwok Ka-ki, a private doctor and Civic Party lawmaker, challenged Mok's stance. He said some mainland mothers wanted to give birth in Hong Kong to gain permanent residency for their children, not because of the city's maternity services.
Kwok said: "Maternity services don't involve high-end medical technology. So I don't think the zero quota policy would have an impact on medical tourism. Patients who really need the high-end medical technology in Hong Kong are more likely to be those who suffer from severe illness, such as cancer."
Lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau sided with Mok, saying that many mainland mothers genuinely wanted to seek maternity services in Hong Kong, and were not travelling to the city with a hidden right-of-abode agenda.
Mok, who is one of 12 members of the Basic Law Committee, wanted the courts to decide who has right-of-abode in Hong Kong.
"I strongly believe [the zero quota] should not be a long-term solution. You are now using administrative means to tackle a legal question. Should we simply [use the administrative means] to dodge the question and to bypass the court?"
Leung and Kwok said the ultimate solution for the right-of-abode saga was to amend the Basic Law. Allowing mainland mothers to use our maternity services should not amount to giving their children a Hong Kong identity card.
"They are completely two [different] things," Leung said.