Mainland agencies who help pregnant women from across the border to reserve maternity bed spaces in Hong Kong claim they will still be able to do so after the "zero-birth quota" comes into effect at midnight tonight, a South China Morning Post investigation has found.
The blanket ban, announced by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in April, aims to stop mainland women not married to Hong Kong residents from giving birth in the city.
But when a Post reporter phoned Hong Kong Baby, an agency in Guangzhou, to ask about getting a bed in a local hospital, the company said it could find ways around the ban.
"Do not worry about the ban, we still have methods to save you a bed," said a woman who only identified herself as Wong. She claimed the company could secure a bed in at least three private hospitals next month.
She quoted a price of 300,000 yuan (HK$368,000), which included helping the mother cross the border illegally.
"You have to make the booking as soon as possible, as there are only a few private hospitals left that we can arrange. We can only guarantee you a bed in some hospitals before January 15. After that, we are not sure about the situation," Wong said.
She also warned that the mother could not hire her own doctor for the delivery as the company would choose one.
A government spokesperson stressed it would closely monitor the use of maternity services by non-local pregnant women next year and take action accordingly.
Local private hospitals Precious Blood, Baptist, Union and Hong Kong Adventist all said they had stopped admitting mainland women who were not married to Hongkongers and denied having ties with the mainland agencies.
"They [the agencies] are probably just making false claims to make money. Non-eligible mainlanders will not be able to give birth in our hospital starting from tomorrow," said Cleve Wong Hin-chai, finance manager at Precious Blood Hospital.
After the announcement of the zero-birth policy, private hospitals saw a surge in the number of mainland families trying to secure a last-minute booking.
This month there was also an influx of mainland women into the city trying to give birth and secure permanent residency for their child.
The number of Department of Health confirmation certificates - a document pregnant women must present when crossing the border - reached 3,023 this month, up 12 per cent from last month and a 10 per cent rise on last December.
There have been rumours of local doctors performing caesarean sections on mainland women to beat the ban.
But the department said it had received no reports of such cases and would contact police if it did.