Home News China Hong Kong Bans So-called ‘Birth Tourists’

Hong Kong Bans So-called ‘Birth Tourists’

E-mail Print PDF

Download Nearly 88 thousand babies were born in Hong Kong in 2010 – almost half of them to mainland women from outside the territory.

Hong Kong residents call this “birth tourism” – mainland mothers-to-be who deliver babies in the territory, to escape policies on the mainland.

But Hong Kong residents are furious – they say they’re being crowded out of their rights.

Under pressure, Hong Kong’s Health Authority this month lowered the quota for how many non-local residents can give birth in the territory.

And next year, the government will ban all mainland mothers from giving birth there.

But the quota has hit other women looking for a maternity bed right now.

Some are launching protests - where our correspondent Banyar Kong Janoi joins them.

Pregnant women aren’t usually the first to take to the streets.

But here they’re shouting “Mothers need beds, babies need to be born.”

They’re all mainland women with Hong Kong husbands – and the drop in quotas this year means they can’t find a place in hospital.

They demand the government review this year’s limits on mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong.

27-year-old Yang Hai Yan is 8 months pregant and still can’t find a hospital bed.

“We feel very anxious... we don’t know where we should deliver our babies.”

Earlier this month Hong Kong’s government lowered the quota for mainland women who can get maternity treatment.  

This year it’s thirty five thousand, including public and private hospitals – seven per cent less than last year.

But the quota affects both mainland couples – and mainland women who have married Hong Kong men.

Seven thousand private hospital places are reserved for these wives.

Yang Hai Yan is one of them – and she says this reservation has not worked.

“We want a better solution for us because my husband is Hong Kong resident. He paid tax; our family should enjoy the same local services.”

Chan Chi-keung is Yang Hai Yan’s husband.

“We are facing enormous discrimination. First, my wife is only allowed to have a ‘tourist visa’, which expires every three months; then she has to go back to the mainland to extend her visa. What’s more, she cannot work in Hong Kong under current law. I am the only person who can take care of our family. Now, my baby cannot be born in Hong Kong. Can you imagine what kind of life our family will have?”

Hong Kong’s attractions for mainlanders are many.

Children born in the territory get residency and the right of abode –which means free public education, greater political freedoms, and a Hong Kong passport, which makes international travel easier.  

And the territory doesn’t share China’s one-child policy – parents can have as many children as they like.

The issue is highly sensitive for local residents – they call the influx of pregnant mainland women ‘birth tourism’, which is a derogatory term.

For them, it means overcrowding. Many maternity hospitals are already booked out all the way to June this year.

Some private hospitals prefer mainland couples because they can charge more – over 9,000 US dollars for each. mother. Local mothers only pay around 60 US dollars.

Hong Kong university student Steffi Au thinks private hospitals have the wrong priorities.

“I do feel very worried that they are merely chasing money instead of looking after the rights of Hong Kong citizens. Because the patients come from China, and in China many people are wealthy, especially people from the big cities. If money decides who gets into maternity hospital, it’s quite an alarming issue. Because not everyone in Hong Kong is that rich. We still have a wealth gap.”

The new quota has strong support from residents like Jini Siu.

“I think the situation’s pathetic. This is Hong Kong and we should serve Hong Kong pregnant women first. But now, most of the resources are going to mainland women.”

But the situation for mainland wives of Hong Kong husbands is especially complicated.

Government data show more than 6,000 children were born to these cross-border families last year.

Imposing a birth quota on these women is not fair, says Tsang Koon-Wing from the Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights Association.

“Those mainland wives, they got married with Hong Kong husbands, they built up their family in Hong Kong so they are also part of Hong Kong society. So, why the government discriminates them, and rule out all beds space for them to enrol? We urge the government to distinguish clearly. The first one is our member; mainland wife with Hong Kong husband. And the other one is both of husband and wife coming from mainland China. And then, the public hospitals that serve local mother should also assist all mainland-Hong Kong families.  We know that the public hospitals have enough capacity to do that.”    

The protest continues.

25 year-old Lin Yu Jing is 5-months pregnant with her first child. She has tried to book a hospital bed for weeks now, with no luck.

“If we can’t get a place in a hospital here in Hong Kong, I have to go back to mainland to give birth. That’s going be very difficult for us, and for our baby’s education. My child won’t be able to get Hong Kong residency. We will become a separated family. I do not want to think about that.”

Public pressure has forced a change for next year.

When the quota drops to zero in 2013, it will only ban mainland women without Hong Kong husbands.

But without another solution, that will be too late for these protestors – their children can’t wait.
Last Updated ( Monday, 30 April 2012 10:21 )  

Add comment

Asia Calling House Rules for Comments:
We reserve the right to fail messages that:
· Are likely to provoke, attack or offend others
· Are racist, homophobic or sexists or otherwise objectionable
· Contain swear words or other language likely to offend
· Break the law or encourage illegal behavior
· Include contact details including number or email address
· Are considered to be advertising or promoting a product or SPAM
· Are considered off-topic

Security code