Chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying's 'zero quota' policy for births to mainland mothers in Hong Kong hospitals has no legal basis, a former secretary for security says.
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee writes in her contribution to the South China Morning Post debate on the subject today that local legislation is necessary to put a definitive end to the controversial practice of birth tourism.
She says reliance on administrative measures alone would fail to prevent the entry of mainland women who do not have Hong Kong husbands who rush to the city to give birth so as to secure permanent residency for their babies.
Her view is confirmed by one of two pregnant mainland mothers who also took part in the debate.
'No matter how high the doctors' fees or how strict Leung Chun-ying's new measures, I will try my best to give birth in Hong Kong because of the automatic right of abode given to children of mainland parents born there,' said Abbie Chan, a Beijing mother-to-be. 'I know that right was upheld in a Court of Final Appeal ruling in Hong Kong, which Leung cannot scrap overnight.'
Ip said that in early April the chief executive-elect held a meeting with prominent lawyers to discuss the right of abode issue in early April.
'The legal experts confirmed that the Hospital Authority's quotas for mainland pregnant women have no legal basis,' said Ip. 'It remains unclear how the secretary for food and health can compel private hospitals to stop admitting mainland pregnant women in order to give priority to local women, or require them not to exceed certain quotas, in the absence of specific legal authority to do so.'
She was referring to the zero quota policy Leung announced last month, in which no maternity beds in private and public hospitals next year may be booked by mainland women, who are accused of crowding locals out of obstetric services.
If mainland women 'manage to stay in Hong Kong by whatever means in an advanced stage of pregnancy, the hospitals will still provide to them', said medical sector lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau.