The city may yet grant the mainland wives of Hong Kong men priority over those with non-local husbands in giving birth at public hospitals, the security secretary says.
The apparent softening of the official line came amid a drop of about 50 per cent last month in the number of unregistered mainland mothers-to-be being admitted to accident and emergency wards at public hospitals just before going into labour.
The health minister had been thinking lately of excluding locals' mainland wives from a quota on mainlanders booking hospital beds to give birth in the city, Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong (pictured) said yesterday.
'As regards to whether mainland wives of Hong Kong husbands could be given priority in Hong Kong's public hospitals, according to my understanding, Dr York Chow Yat-ngok is now taking this into account,' Lee told the Legislative Council.
He said Chow, secretary for food and health, was looking into ways to distinguish between mainland mothers-to-be married to locals and those who were not, 'so that policies could incline slightly towards [the former]'.
Less than two weeks ago, Chow had described such an administrative distinction as challenging, citing difficulties in authenticating marriage certificates. He has imposed a quota of 3,400 births by nonlocal women at public hospitals this year, down from 10,000 last year.
Local concern groups have for years pushed for Hongkongers' mainland wives to receive separate treatment from women who are not married to locals.
Statistics from the Security Bureau showed 94 pregnant mainlanders were taken to public accident and emergency wards between February 1 and 25, a decline from about 200 cases five months ago.
Henry Tang Ying-yen guaranteed local expectant mothers 'one bed each' in public hospitals if elected as chief executive. 'This can be achieved when no mainland mums married to non-locals are accepted into public hospitals,' he told TVB.
Basic Law Institute chairman Alan Hoo said he would visit Britain next month to meet parties there. 'If they can question the issue in Parliament, the British government would be forced to reinstate their then consensus, which stated that a Chinese citizen would only have the city's right of abode given a parent was residing in Hong Kong at the time of birth,' he said.
Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu said a Basic Law reinterpretation would be the only viable solution. She said an amendment, despite being constitutionally provided for, could be problematic.