China

Hong Kong to limit mainland China maternity services

  • 25 April 2012
  • From the section China
Anti 'birth tourism' poster in Hong Kong(file photo)
Image caption Hospitals in Hong Kong say that 'birth tourism' has put lives at risk

Hong Kong hospitals will limit maternity services to most pregnant women from mainland China from next year, under new proposals from its incoming chief executive.

Mainland women will be prevented from giving birth in Hong Kong unless they have a Hong Kong husband.

While the proposal would only apply to public hospitals, private hospitals have also agreed to follow suit.

Increasing "birth tourism" from the mainland has caused tensions.

Soaring numbers of mainland women have sought to give birth in Hong Kong to ensure that their child receives Hong Kong citizenship.

Almost half of all babies born in Hong Kong in 2010 were the children of mainland couples, according to government figures.

The "zero quota" proposals were made by Chief Executive-elect CY Leung, who takes office on 1 July.

Under the proposals, pregnant women from mainland China will not be eligible for obstetrics services from next year, unless their husband is from Hong Kong.

Furthermore, children born to mainland parents will not be guaranteed residency unless one of their parents is a Hong Kong resident.

The new proposals are likely to be popular in Hong Kong, whose residents have said that "birth tourism" from mainland China has strained resources and put lives at risk.

'No choice'

Ethnic Chinese babies born in Hong Kong currently automatically receive the right to live and work there, as well as the right to carry a Hong Kong passport, which makes international travel easier.

Image caption Hong Kong is renowned for the high quality of its maternal health care training

Some mainlanders also choose to give birth in Hong Kong to skirt the one-child policy, which can result in heavy fines for violators.

Mr Leung, who was elected with the weakest mandate of any chief executive to date, has been trying to rally political support with populist policies, says the BBC's Hong Kong correspondent Juliana Liu.

The Hong Kong government has already imposed quotas on the number of mainland mothers allowed to give birth in local hospitals, but residents say the quotas do not go far enough.

Alan Lau, head of Hong Kong's Private Hospitals Association, told the BBC that its members felt they had no choice but to comply with Mr Leung's wishes.

He confirmed that the hospitals would stop taking bookings from mainland mothers from 2013.

Many private hospital chiefs had initially opposed the proposals, citing financial and ethical issues.

Hong Kong has seen a surge in anti-China sentiment in recent months, due to resentment over "birth tourism" and claims that tourists from mainland China get preferential treatment.

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