Following is a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam and a reply by the Acting Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (February 20):
According to the judgment on the Chong Fung-yuen case handed down by the Court of Final Appeal in 2001, children born in Hong Kong to mainland women whose spouses are not Hong Kong permanent residents (these women being commonly known as "doubly non-permanent resident pregnant (DNRP) women", and these children known as "doubly non-permanent resident (DNR) children") are entitled to the right of abode in Hong Kong. Since then, the number of cases of DNRP women giving birth in Hong Kong has been increasing year after year. As a result, Hong Kong's healthcare services are under great pressure, and problems such as insufficient school places have also surfaced one after another. It has been reported that although the Government has stepped up its administrative measures, quite a number of DNRP women are still looking for ways to give birth in Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) in each year since 2001, of the respective numbers of DNR children born in public and private hospitals in Hong Kong and their respective percentages in the total numbers of live births in Hong Kong, the respective figures on the use of public healthcare services (including the numbers of in-patient attendances and patient days, as well as the numbers of attendances for general out-patient services, paediatric specialist services and the "health and developmental surveillance" and "immunisation" services at Maternal and Child Health Centres) by DNR children, and the respective percentages of these figures in the overall figures on the use of such services by children; whether the authorities have assessed the demand for the various aforesaid healthcare services by DNR children in the next five years, and its impact on the use of these services by local children; if they have not assessed, whether the authorities will conduct assessments on a regular basis;
(b) of the respective numbers of DNR children admitted by kindergartens and primary schools in Hong Kong for each grade in the past five years, their respective percentages in the total numbers of students, and the estimated figures in the next five years; and
(c) as it has been reported that notwithstanding a significant decrease in the number of cases of DNRP women giving birth in Hong Kong following the implementation of the zero quota policy by the Government in 2013, some intermediaries still arrange for DNRP women to give birth in Hong Kong through various means, and some mainland websites claim that they can make advance booking of beds for DNRP women to give birth in private hospitals in Hong Kong this year, whether the Government will further step up the relevant administrative measures to address the problem?
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is gravely concerned about the issue of Mainland pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong and has been making every effort to address this issue. It is the Government's policy to ensure that Hong Kong residents are given proper and adequate obstetric services. The Administration is very concerned about the surge of demand for obstetric services in Hong Kong by non-local women (mainly mainland women) in recent years, which has caused tremendous pressure on the overall obstetric and neonatal care services. To ensure that adequate obstetric services and neonatal care services are available in Hong Kong and local pregnant women are given priority for obstetric services, we have reserved all beds for obstetric services in public hospitals in 2013 for local pregnant women and urgent cases referred by private hospitals and hence no bookings from non-local pregnant women will be accepted. Private hospitals have also reached a unanimous consensus to stop accepting bookings for obstetric services in 2013 from mainland pregnant women whose husbands are not Hong Kong residents.
My reply to the three questions raised by the Hon Lam is as follows:
(a) The total number of live births in Hong Kong and the number of babies born in Hong Kong to Mainland women since 2001 are at Annex 1. It shows that the number of babies born in Hong Kong to Mainland women whose husbands are not Hong Kong residents has been increasing since 2005. Hence, the policy implemented in 2013 is necessary.
According to the existing policy, holders of Hong Kong Identity Card and children under 11 years of age who are Hong Kong residents are eligible persons and are entitled to use the public healthcare services.
When a person uses public healthcare services, the Hospital Authority (HA) will make a patient record for him/her for administration purpose. HA does not keep separate statistical figures on the identities of parents of eligible persons. Hence HA does not have statistical figures on the number of children whose parents are not Hong Kong residents and who have used various healthcare services in the past, and the respective percentages pertaining to the use of such services by these children in the overall figures. Meanwhile, the Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHCs) under Department of Health (DH) have conducted a statistical study on new cases involving infants under one year of age who have used the MCHC services over the past five years, and it is observed that the parents of about 20% of these infants were non-eligible persons (NEPs). The details are set out at Annex 2. As infants may receive different types of services, such as "health and developmental surveillance" and "immunisation" services, in the same consultation session, DH does not have a breakdown of the statistical figures on the numbers of attendances by type of services. Annex 2 shows the total number of infants who received the services.
In projecting the future demand for public healthcare services, HA will take into account a number of factors, including population growth and changes in demographic profile, as well as the demand for healthcare services from those cross-boundary eligible persons.
HA has, in the past, conducted surveys on the demand for healthcare services from cross-boundary children who are eligible persons. According to HA's latest estimation, there are some 151 000 children born to Mainland pregnant women in Hong Kong who are now living in the vicinity of Guangdong Province and this figure will increase to 187 000 in 2017. The Government will make a projection based on the findings of the surveys and the past service utilisation rates to ensure that all eligible persons can use the public healthcare services they need.
MCHCs under DH provide services for eligible children from birth to five years of age. DH will assess the future service demand having regard to such relevant factors as the total number of births and the number of new cases in the past.
(b) The records of students' birth information currently kept by the Education Bureau (EDB) are mainly related to their eligibility for schooling in Hong Kong. Such records do not include classifications of students by "Type I babies", "Type II babies" or those with parents who are Hong Kong permanent residents. The EDB therefore cannot estimate the percentage of "Type II babies" in the total student population.
Notwithstanding, according to the information provided by schools, the number of cross-boundary students, which include "Type I babies", "Type II babies" or those with parents who are Hong Kong permanent residents, studying in kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools in the 2012/13 school year is about 7 500, 7 000 and 2 000 respectively. We estimate that majority of these students will continue their studies in Hong Kong.
(c) To complement the implementation of the "zero quota" policy, law enforcement departments will continue to step up their interception and enforcement actions against Mainland pregnant women whose husbands are not Hong Kong residents, and to combat cases of Mainland pregnant women coming to Hong Kong to give birth through illegal means. Upon an overall enhancement of the relevant complementary immigration measures since late 2011, the number of Mainland pregnant women gate-crashing the Accident and Emergency Departments (A&EDs) and private hospitals without prior booking has dropped substantially from 150 per month during the period between September and December 2011 to only 22 in January 2013.
A total of 4 202 Mainland pregnant women without prior booking for delivery services at local hospitals were refused entry into Hong Kong by Immigration Department (ImmD) in 2012, representing a significant increase by more than two-fold in comparison with the figure of 1 931 in 2011.
From October 2011 to December 2012, ImmD prosecuted 474 Mainland women having overstayed to give birth in Hong Kong with successful convictions and arranged for their repatriation thereafter. In 2012, ImmD prosecuted three Mainland women who gave birth in Hong Kong through illicit means. All Mainland women concerned were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for terms up to eight months. In January this year, ImmD prosecuted another Mainland woman for making a false representation to an immigration officer and obtaining delivery services by deception. This Mainland woman was sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months.
Moreover, to combat the problem of Mainland pregnant women gate-crashing the A&EDs to give birth in Hong Kong without delivery bookings, the HKSAR Government established, in February 2012, a liaison mechanism with the Guangdong authorities to enhance the exchange of intelligence. The law enforcement departments of HKSAR have stepped up their efforts to clamp down on illicit intermediaries assisting Mainland pregnant women to give birth in Hong Kong, including stepping up the inspection of dubious intermediaries and referring doubtful intermediaries to the Guangdong authorities for follow-up actions. The Police also closely monitors activities of the intermediaries through cyber patrol and will follow up on any illegal act detected in accordance with the law. In 2012, 12 individuals involved in illicit activities to assist Mainland pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong (including intermediaries and cross-boundary vehicle drivers) were sentenced to imprisonment for terms ranging from eight weeks to a year.
Since February 2012, the Office of the Licensing Authority (OLA) of the Home Affairs Department, together with the Police and the ImmD, has carried out more than 40 inter-departmental blitz operations and conducted over 1 300 inspections at unlicensed guesthouses suspected of offering short-term rental accommodation to Mainland pregnant women who came to Hong Kong to give birth. During that period, OLA has instituted a total of 64 prosecutions against unlicensed guesthouses suspected of contravening the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance, with 51 persons being convicted by the court. Moreover, OLA is now examining the evidence collected for 45 cases. Prosecutions will be initiated if it is established that there is sufficient evidence to support the prosecutions.
For those Mainland pregnant women whose husbands are Hong Kong permanent residents, or Hong Kong residents who came to Hong Kong on One-way Permits and they have made bookings at local private hospitals for delivery in 2013 under the special arrangements, their identity and their marital relations with their husbands will be subject to stringent verification by the Government in order to forestall anyone posing as spouses of Hong Kong residents for delivery in Hong Kong. Thank you President.
Ends/Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Issued at HKT 18:36