Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying's proposed zero quota, designed to stop mainland birth tourism, is likely to face fewer legal challenges than other measures to deal with the issue, experts said.
Leung said private hospitals in the city should stop admitting pregnant mainlanders without Hong Kong husbands in 2013. The babies of those who made it to Hong Kong to give birth, despite the 'zero' quota, would 'very likely' not gain residency, he said.
Huen Wong, former president of the Law Society of Hong Kong, and lawmaker and barrister Alan Leong Kah-kit said the easiest way to handle the problem would be to stop issuing delivery booking certificates to mainlanders. That's because pregnant mainlanders coming into the city would be declined entry at the border if they could not present the certificate, which is issued by the Department of Health.
Wong said Leung's measure would be the least likely to trigger a court case and was possibly enough to have an impact on the number of mainlanders coming to give birth.
But the ban would not solve the issue of right of abode for children born in the city to mainland mothers.
Speaking on an RTHK programme yesterday, Leung said he would not roll out his concrete plan to tackle the right-of- abode issue yet. But, he said, 'I will definitely work on it when I take up the position' - meaning after July 1.
He noted that some lawmakers had submitted private bills to the Legislative Council to amend the Immigration Ordinance. 'Of course, I cannot do it now ... but the chief executive should approve the private bills,' he said.
Lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip said he had submitted a bill to Legco last Tuesday, and Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung said he will be turning in a bill today.
It is up to Legco President Tsang Yok-sing to decide whether to accept the bills. But Wong said he thought that a private bill may not be the best way to address a policy concerning general public interest.
He said amending the Immigration Ordinance would conflict with a 2001 Court of Final Appeal ruling in the case of Chong Fung-yuen, which conferred the right of abode on a baby born in Hong Kong regardless of the parents' immigration status.
Of the 95,000 births in the city last year, more than 40 per cent were to mainland mothers. This influx, Hongkongers say, puts a strain on the system - on the city's medical services, social benefits and education resources.
Leung's other options for not granting residency to non-local babies born in Hong Kong are all likely to trigger lawsuits or arouse intense controversy. These include not issuing identity cards to the children of non-local parents; waiting for or initiating a new court case in which the Court of Final Appeal could 'rectify' its ruling in the 2001 case; or seeking an interpretation from Beijing of the Basic Law.
The city's public hospitals have a quota of this many places for mainlanders giving birth in Hong Kong this year