The policy of charging pregnant mainlanders a higher fee to give birth in Hong Kong's public hospitals is justified, even for those with a Hong Kong husband, the High Court ruled yesterday. Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor said that when the policy was introduced in 2005, 'there was clearly a genuine and urgent need' to address the 'mischief' caused by the surge of non-eligible people giving birth in public hospitals. The policy was 'plainly legitimate', he said. He dismissed a judicial review launched by Hongkonger Fok Siu-wing on behalf of his son, Fok Chun-wa, and mainland daughter-in-law, Zeng Lixia, saying her position was 'materially different from that of a Hong Kong resident' and did not change merely because she had married into a Hong Kong family. 'If a mainland woman wishes to give birth in Hong Kong, which is entirely a matter of her choice alone, she, as a visitor, cannot possibly expect to enjoy the same treatment as Hong Kong resident women,' he said. Mr Fok, 68, had claimed the policy was unconstitutional and discriminatory. He also challenged the lack of a discretionary waiver of fees for pregnant mainlanders from families which, like his, depended on public assistance. He yesterday vowed to appeal against the decision, saying the judge had been unfair to differentiate between his daughter-in-law and local mothers. 'The government does not have a chance if I appeal because the policy violates our Basic Law,' he said. 'It would be very wrong to treat her merely as a visitor because she married my son, and my grandson is a resident of Hong Kong.' Under the policy, non-local women are charged HK$39,000 to book a bed. Those who have not made a booking, and often require the services of an accident and emergency department, have to pay HK$48,000. Asked if he would pay medical fees totalling HK$132,312 incurred by Ms Zeng when she came to Hong Kong to give birth last year, he said: 'Of course not. I don't have the money to pay. Even if I had the money, I wouldn't pay.' Ms Zeng is a two-way permit-holder awaiting approval by mainland authorities for a one-way permit, which would give her Hong Kong residency. She was married in 2005 to Fok Chun-wa, who has mild mental disabilities. She gave birth to her son, Man-kuen, on December 26 last year through the accident and emergency department of a public hospital in Hong Kong. She was admitted to the hospital three times for follow-up consultations and treatment. Making his ruling, Mr Justice Poon said the charging policy was justified to tackle the problem of an influx of pregnant mainlanders seeking to give birth in Hong Kong hospitals. The amount of the fees - set in 2005 and last year - was also justified. He said the policy ensured local women were given priority and non-local women were not attracted to Hong Kong's public hospitals by their low prices. 'A responsibility to pay for obstetric fees is no more an infringement of [the Basic Law] than a responsibility of parents to pay for food and clothing,' the judge said. Caritas social worker Tsang Koon-wing said the policy was affecting about 5,800 mainlanders. According to the Hospital Authority, 9,428 non-local mothers had babies in public hospitals from January to November this year.