• Wed
  • Jul 23, 2014
  • Updated: 8:39am
NewsHong Kong
RIGHT OF ABODE

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

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 March, 2013, 11:33pm

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

"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.

 

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Greenwash
Rubbish article. The quota on mainland mums is not bad for the economy, it is good for economy. Who is the author a lobbyist for? Mainland children born in Hong Kong will soak up social resources (school, hospital facilities) and most will never pay any taxes or live in Hong Kong. Medical tourism will not be discourage by this quota. If Hong Kong provides great medical care, people will come here for operations regardless of whether they can have their children born here and receive HK passports! Why does the SCMP publish such poorly thought out opinion pieces?
vikulya78@yahoo.com
Agreed 100%! It's so obviously rubbish that I can't believe the above mentioned lawmaker is not lobbying for the mainland stance.
I constantly hear (from local, as well as expat friends, including those, who gave birth here) how hard it is to get a booking at a hospital for delivery. Even in some private hospitals! So what "bad impact on economy" is he talking about?? There is not enough space for all the expectant mothers to give births!
likingming
The best way is to make use of the high demand of quality medical services of the rich mainlanders to subsidise that of the Hongkongers ! And benefit both the locals and the mainlanders mutually.
How ?
Well, say have a quota of 1000 of $1 millions each for the mainlanders annually and use this amount of money to build more hopitals and train more doctors.
mercedes2233
I didn't know HK was aiming to develop medical tourism. We have problems providing medical facilities to our own people already, either requiring them to queue up in dismal hospital waiting rooms, or pay hefty bills at private hospitals. Charity begins at home. Chinese mothers wanting maternity services in HK say something about China's medical care for its people's. The matter should certainly be addressed from there rather than passing the buck here.
vikulya78@yahoo.com
"Charity begins at home" - absolutely!
markhughes
There is some confusion here. A zero quota on pregnant mums will only affect maternity services of which, if HK does not have a surplus of, is not a good candidate for medical tourism anyway. Other services ie cancer treatment etc for medical tourists should not be affected. When Mr Mok talks of medical tourism I think this is wishful thinking, taking time, resources and effort especially if HK is to compete with Singapore, Thailand and even Taiwan. I think throwing in the 'economy suffering' soundbite is more for show than contributing to the argument. The right of abode question needs to be addressed but this argument isn't going to help.
For clarity the US does allow pregnant mothers to travel to the US to give birth so long as they have the resources to pay and intend to leave after but the question is vexing them too..
johnyuan
What Mok has done in SCMP’s interview is setting up an argument that is based on a nonentity than refutes it so to make a point. It may be his way of making his living as a Senior Counsel, but I will advice him it takes a super skill to represent self-interest clients who are against society. The collective wisdom of the people could easily find your argument false and clumsy. You have overestimated your counsel skill to your clients. And these clients shouldn’t pay you a cent.
Furthermore, the writer who defended you in this comment are equally false and clumsy by just repeating your way of argument.
megafun
most HKers, like me, do not want medical tourism! We actually want good medical care for HKers.
megafun
local doctors in private hospitals ought to pay a special tax since they were educated in subsidized local universities and trained in public hospitals. They ought to be ashame that HK tax-payers has to wait up to 40 months for an appointment in Government hospitals!!
acheong10
I do agree that the right of abode issue for babies born to mainland parents need to be resolved legally rather than administratively. In the scenario that babies born to mainland parents may no longer obtain HK residency, hospitals in HK may certainly benefit from allocating its excess capacity in the maternity wards to non-HK mothers assuming the demand from HK residents are fully accommodated.
jenniepc
To many Chinese, the grass on the other side is always greener. Most of mainland mothers want to have the high-end maternity services in Hong Kong yet some mainland mothers may use the maternity services as the way to gain permanent residency for their children.
My husband is an America born Chinese yet I am still a Taiwanese and I am in no hurry to be an American. I have never been discriminated against in the United States. I am 5 feet and 4 inch tall and 119Lbs. I have an appearance of Chinese, European and Japanese. I have heard many Asian or Chinese who have complained that they have been discriminated against or been treated like second-class citizens in the United States yet their use any means to come to the United States with a large amount of money.
Jennie PC Chiang/江佩珍 03/05/13 美國
likingming
With zero-quota, the medical expenses would be increased for the locals soon.
Banning the parallel trade, MTR would increase the fare (or decrease the frequency) for the locals ultimalely.
That is spontaneus consequences.
The right of abode issue is destined to end sometime in the future (34 years & ten yrs earlier) with the borders finally dissolved !
"Like it of not" does not matter
donniemcm
Mr Mok, please also consider several social impacts for children born with HK citizenship:
- Separation from their parents as they can't stay freely in HK
- Unability to live and study in the mainland
- Long commutation if living at the border and attending HK schools
- etc.
You are following former CE and ducking into the simplified theory that medical services are a pillar of economy.
honger
Mok lobbies and speaks for the medical tourism industry only.
"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..."
In this case, the recipients of the "economic benefits to Hong Kong" that he talks about are only the PRIVATE medical industry. Everybody else - the public hospitals and the general Hong Kong public - suffers because of this.
99 percent of Hong Kong people do not want any part of his "agressive medical tourism."
How selfish can one get?
johnyuan
Most of the citizens I believe support CY Leung’s expedient resolution in stopping mainland mothers from giving birth here in Hong Kong. US too has a similar measure that foreigners beyond certain period of pregnancy are forbidden to be admitted in the country. While control of citizenship is essential, in Hong Kong concern about adequacy of care present and future must adorn all its citizens. Particularly, birth-giving mainland mothers had deprived hospital service for the locals. The potential of even more births from the vast hinterland is incalculable. And I doubt it is a means that the Central Government has planned how to integrate Hong Kong with China.

Right of abode is a law alright. Mok is clearly using it as a subterfuge to challenge CY Leung’s order which Mok terms it as an administrative means – implying lightweight and temporary. Leung and the city may rightly have a longer view at right of abode; but his order is in no way contradicted the ‘right of abode’. He hasn’t denied it to those who were born here.. Mok’s motive is not straight legal concern but lays and conceals elsewhere. His mental agility in connecting dots is superficial and betrays his status as a senior counsel – mixing apple with orange but pulling wool over all our eyes.

When Hong Kong is short of land even in housing the locals and high air pollution, medical tourism making a lot of money is not very promising. Those think so otherwise must be challenged.
boondeiyan
Finally, somebody willing to stand up for economic liberties. Whatever his ulterior motives at least Mr. Mok is talking sensibly. To those whose reflexive response is to criticize his intelligence or his understanding of legal issues, at least do us the courtesy of making intelligent arguments yourselves. Mr. Mok's key point in this article is that attempting to prevent mainland mothers from giving birth in Hong Kong does not remedy the right of abode issue. By definition, the zero quota reduces demand for maternity and neo-natal services. It may be your opinion that such demand is purely a function of right of abode, but you have no counterfactual evidence to support this point until the right of abode issue is fixed. Meanwhile, I may equally claim that those mainland women booking themselves into Matilda are looking for high-touch, not high-technology care: Matilda kicks you to gov't hospital at the slightest sign of complication. By excusing government intervention in the private sector you pave the way toward still more erosion of Hong Kong's economic foundation. I believe Mr. Mok is right: these are separate issues.
honger
u are taling hogwash, u who profess to be a local. Your arguements are not logical at all!!!
SpeakFreely
In the past years if I'm not wrong there were around 350,000 mainland babies born in HK That is 5% of our 7 million population. Stats to be confirmed. But if we translate this 5% to China and USA it will be 65 million and 15 millions new born babies in China and US respectively. Will they willing to take in that much babies without worrying the social impact? Please stop using these "free" economy theory of hk. hK was never a free economy to start with as we are artificially controlled by land, developers and government. You can start a biz here freely but you can complete with the controlled economy. Even Walmart or Carefour could not survive in hk, right? Hk is loosing all these small shops such as wan ton noodle etc and be replaced by all franchise as rents are up making competition impossible for the small guys. Loosing out all cultures
I'm sure Mok and all these doctors are speaking for themselves not for Hk people.
impala
Your point makes more or less sense, but the statistics are off. We have about 90k babies born in Hong Kong every year. About half of those are born to 'mainland' mothers, but a good portion of those women are actually HK residents, which they have often become after marrying a Hong Kong man. Before the government brought in the zero-quota, in 2011, the best estimate is that some 25k of the total 96k births in Hong Kong that year were to women without right of abode in Hong Kong. That is still an awful lot, but your figure of 350k in 5 years is definitely too high - that is closer to the total number of ALL births taken place in Hong Kong over the past 5 years.
impala
Your point makes more or less sense, but the statistics are off. We have about 90k babies born in Hong Kong every year. About half of those are born to 'mainland' mothers, but a good portion of those women are actually HK residents, which they have often become after marrying a Hong Kong man. Before the government brought in the zero-quota, in 2011, the best estimate is that some 25k of the total 96k births in Hong Kong that year were to women without right of abode in Hong Kong. That is still an awful lot, but your figure of 350k in 5 years is definitely too high - that is closer to the total number of ALL births taken place in Hong Kong over the past 5 years.
SpeakFreely
Medical tourism? Mok, only if it bring long term benefits. Taking away the one time fees earned by medical practitioners, HK has to foot the long term bills for education, medical and all social benefits for these Mainland babies with no guarantee they are wiling to live and work here. Had Mok calculate that costs? If we need new working force, we should review our immigration policy rather such as taking in professionals etc, not by allowing new borns with so much unknowns and little planning.
auyeungy
Mok missed the point completely. If the BL is amended to deny permanent residency to newborns of parents from China, it will have exactly the same economic effect as the zero quota, maybe even more so because the incentive of smuggling is gone.
ssslmcs01
Mr. Mok's comments are ridiculous. Medical tourism includes a multitiude of medical procedures it isn't restricted to maternity services. He is also short sighted in that the Chinese parents whose child is born in Hong Kong is a permanent resident from birth and as such is entitled to a host of social benefits paid for by Hong Kong tax payers. The one time fee paid to give birth here doesn't even come close to coving the medical, education and other social benefits that child will be entitled to for life.
In addition, Mr. Mok seems oblivious to the shortage of places in our schools in the northern New Territories for local tax payers due to the fact that those children who were born here are taking up large numbers of seats in our schools.
honger
The children of Mr Mok - and those of the private medical practitioners - goes to private local or overseas boarding schools. They do not need to queue for the local places like us proletariats. Of course their spouses also do not need to sleep on the makeshift beds along the public hospitals when they give birth................thanks to all the $$$$ from the selective medical toursim that he lobbies for.
aplucky1
the courts should decide ?
why?
are judges more enlightened then administrators?
no they are not, they have lost touch with real society and have lost what little common sense they are born with
impala
Developing medical tourism using the right of abode for Hong Kong-born babies as the main attraction point has the makings of a tragedy of the commons in it. A medical industry making money off mothers who are primarily attracted to a free public 'resource' (the right of abode for the child) will lead to the erosion of that and other resources if it is over-used. Nevertheless, Mok has a point: the zero-quota solution was put in place as a temporary relief measure, but it is indeed an administrative solution for a deeper legal problem. The government should seek a more stable solution to the latter.
 
 
 
 
 

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