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LCQ2: Impact of cross-boundary private cars ad hoc quota trial scheme on the problem of mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong

     Following is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, at the Legislative Council meeting today (February 15):


     The trial scheme on one-off ad hoc quotas for Guangdong/Hong Kong cross-boundary private cars ("self-drive tour scheme") will be launched in March this year, and in the first phase Hong Kong private cars will be permitted to apply for one-off quotas for self-drive tour to Guangdong Province, and in the second phase private cars from Guangdong Province will be permitted entry to Hong Kong, but there is no mandatory requirement for car owners of the two places to sit for any examination or lesson before obtaining approval of the quotas. It has been reported that an online group against the self-drive tour scheme was established early this month and some members of the public joining the group worry that the self-drive tour scheme will worsen the problem of "doubly non-permanent resident pregnant women" entering the territory. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Government has assessed if the self-drive tour scheme will have an impact on the problem of "doubly non-permanent resident pregnant women" entering the territory; if it has, of the details; if not, whether it will conduct such an assessment; and

(b) given that at present, quite a number of pregnant mainland women who have not made any advance appointment of hospital obstetric services bypass the interception of officers of the Hong Kong Immigration Department at boundary control points by crossing the border by cars, whether the Government has any measure to prevent and combat agencies or agents on the Mainland arranging pregnant mainland women who have not made any advance appointment to come to Hong Kong through the self-drive tour scheme, or pregnant mainland women themselves making use of the scheme to give birth in Hong Kong; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The governments of Guangdong and Hong Kong will launch the first phase of the ad hoc quota trial scheme for cross-boundary private cars (the Scheme) in March 2012, under which qualified owners of Hong Kong private cars with five seats or less are allowed to apply for such quotas to enter Guangdong for a short stay not longer than seven days.  Arrangements for Mainland private cars to enter Hong Kong with ad hoc quotas fall under the second phase of the Scheme, of which there is no concrete timetable. The relevant arrangements require further discussion by the Guangdong and Hong Kong experts, and specific details and implementation date will depend on the outcome of the first phase.

     In formulating the arrangements of the Scheme, we adhere to some principles, including (a) exercising due care and by launching a trial first to ascertain the effects; (b) introducing the scheme under a highly regulated environment, with road safety and network capacity as the fundamental considerations and taking into account the impact on the environment; (c) starting with a small number of quotas, which can be adjusted flexibly having regard to special circumstances; and (d) requiring full details in all the applications which will be carefully vetted and proper screened.

     All the cross-boundary private cars using the Scheme are not allowed to be used for commercial purposes, including carriage of passengers for reward.  In case of non-compliance, the Police will follow up and handle the case in accordance with the law.

     The Hong Kong Police has all along been paying attention to the situation regarding non-compliant commercial use of cross-boundary vehicles for carriage of passengers, including carrying "doubly non-permanent resident pregnant women" to Hong Kong. The Police has stepped up random checks on cross-boundary vehicles to combat the relevant crimes, and will send the relevant information to the Mainland authorities for follow-up. If necessary, the Police will seek assistance from the Mainland authorities in the investigation.

     The problem associated with "doubly non-permanent resident pregnant women" crossing the border shortly before labour has existed for some time, which has caused tremendous pressure on the overall obstetric and neonatal care services. In this regard, the Administration has already introduced a series of measures to deter Mainland pregnant women without booking to enter Hong Kong for delivery. Relevant government departments and the Hospital Authority are actively implementing these measures.

     To prevent non-local pregnant women from entering Hong Kong for delivery without being intercepted by taking cross-boundary private cars, the Immigration Department (ImmD) will collaborate with other departments to carry out checks. The relevant departments will also implement targeted measures and launch raids based on the intelligence collected and data analysis, and step up random checks on cross-boundary vehicles.

     As the case of other cross-boundary vehicles, if a private car under the Scheme is found to be carrying a Mainland pregnant woman, the ImmD staff will interrogate the person concerned and ask her to present the "Certificate on confirmed antenatal and delivery booking" (Certificate) issued by a hospital in Hong Kong, proving that she has made a booking for admission to the hospital. If the persons concerned are unable to produce the Certificate, they will probably be refused entry.

     The Department of Health is taking measures to enhance assistance to the ImmD staff by providing additional healthcare manpower at the boundary control points. The ImmD also maintains close liaison with the Mainland authorities to deter non-local pregnant women from seeking entry shortly before labour. There is a precedent case of successful prosecution by the ImmD against an agent aiding Mainland pregnant women to give birth in Hong Kong recently. The offender has been sentenced to imprisonment of ten months. We believe that this successful prosecution case will greatly enhance the deterrent effect.

     The Police has been closely monitoring the modus operandi and promotion tactics of agencies in Hong Kong. If any unlawful acts are detected, enforcement actions will be taken in accordance with the relevant legislation. For agencies operating in the Mainland, the Police has been conducting joint investigations with the Mainland authorities to combat cross-boundary illegal practices.

     The governments of Guangdong and Hong Kong will possess detailed information of the applicants, drivers and vehicles using ad hoc quotas. In case of non-compliance with the laws and regulations, the two governments will definitely follow up on the case in accordance with the law. Holders of ad hoc quota are only allowed to make one round trip to and from the Guangdong Province during the specified period and through the Shenzhen Bay Port. There will be designated clearance kiosks for cross-boundary vehicles using ad hoc quotas at the boundary control point. As such, the Administration has ample information about the persons and vehicles concerned, which will facilitate follow-up and investigation of suspected cases by the law enforcement departments.

     To prevent abuse of the ad hoc quotas for commercial purposes, we have put in place suitable measures in designing the implementation arrangements for the Scheme. For example, we would require that each owner can only apply for one quota at one time, and that a new reservation can only be made at least six weeks from the quota start date of the last quota approved; the applicant has to be on broad the private car concerned upon entering the Guangdong Province and returning to Hong Kong; the applicant also has to be one of the designated drivers and meet the eligibility requirements. The private cars concerned can only be driven by no more than two designated drivers into the Guangdong Province and no one else. If the private cars issued with ad hoc quotas are found to have been used for carriage of passengers for reward in contravention of regulation, prosecution will be initiated by the Police in accordance with the law. New ad hoc quota applications by the owners or drivers concerned will not be accepted once they are convicted or before the related legal proceedings are concluded.

     Therefore, we believe that the implementation of the Scheme will not have implication for the problem of entry by "doubly non-permanent resident pregnant women".

Ends/Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:27


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