Hong Kong's medical industry should not rely on the "doomed" business of treating mainland mothers-to-be, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has warned.
The city's chief executive was addressing how the zero-tolerance policy for expectant mainland mothers in Hong Kong's maternity wards could affect the city's obstetrics industry. Yesterday marked the first time he had done so since the ban came into effect in January.
"If the medical industry cannot be developed without the clientele of babies born to mainland parents, we have to seriously reconsider the idea of the medical industry," he wrote in his blog.
His comments came four days after Leung's government scrapped a tender to build a private hospital in Tai Po after the sole bidder failed to meet conditions attached to the project.
In his debut policy address in January, Leung also said the government-appointed Economic Development Commission would consider how to remove the medical and education sectors from the six cutting-edge industries named by predecessor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen as key areas of development. Leung yesterday said: "The business derived from mainland pregnant women is doomed. The government is determined. The reason is simple: the price Hong Kong society has to pay is too great."
Before the ban, he said some 30,000 babies were born in the city to mainland parents every year, with a total of 200,000 such births in recent years.
Leung said that while obstetricians and hospitals made money from the influx, it burdened the city's health-care and education services, as evident in the strained allocation of Primary One seats.
"When developing any industry, we should not only consider the interest of the industry, but also the overall interest of society, and the direct and indirect costs to the community," Leung wrote.
The Economic Development Commission, led by Leung, held its first meeting on Wednesday.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah disclosed in his blog yesterday that commission members were divided over whether the city should redevelop the city's manufacturing industry, which was diminishing.
"It is impossible for Hong Kong to make a U-turn and adopt labour-intensive ways to make low-value products," John Tsang said.
He added that if production was carried out in the city, it should be making high-value products, such as hi-tech, well-designed and highly customised goods.
Tsang said some members had suggested that Hong Kong should "develop industries but not factories" and that it should retain high-value sectors, such as design, brand management and supply chain management.