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LCQ8: Regulatory measures to prevent abuse of ad hoc quota trial scheme for cross-boundary private cars

     Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, in the Legislative Council today (April 25):


     At a special meeting of the Finance Committee of this Council, the Secretary for Security pointed out that last year, around 50% of the non-local pregnant women rushing directly to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of public hospitals for delivery without appointment entered Hong Kong in cross-boundary private vehicles that have obtained approval for regular quotas (commonly known as "cross-boundary vehicle licences"); hence, out of the 1 656 non-local pregnant women giving birth in public hospitals last year via A&E departments, around 800 entered Hong Kong in cross-boundary private vehicles.  Earlier on, at a public hearing held by the Panel on Transport of this Council, many members of the public expressed concern that, in view of implementation of the first phase of the trial scheme on one-off ad hoc quotas for Guangdong/Hong Kong cross-boundary private cars (self-drive tour scheme) in March this year, vehicles going to Guangdong under the scheme might similarly be abused and used to carry non-local pregnant women to Hong Kong on their return trip.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that at the aforesaid public hearing, some members of the Panel queried the effectiveness of the measure of the Department of Health deploying healthcare staff to assist the authorised officers of the Immigration Department at boundary control points in identifying pregnant women, pointing out that the healthcare staff may not be able to determine whether a person entering the territory is pregnant just by visual inspection, as well as doubting that they are not conferred adequate authority and are not able to stop and check those suspected pregnant women, and some members even pointed out the acute manpower shortage of the healthcare staff concerned, what measures the authorities have in place to tackle the problems pointed out by the members; of the current number of healthcare staff deployed to station at boundary control points, and whether such manpower will be further increased; and

(b) given that the measures for drivers and passengers of cross-boundary private vehicles to cross the boundary without alighting from vehicles are implemented at Shenzhen Bay Port (SBP) at present, whether the inspection facilities at SBP are sufficient to effectively prevent the abusive use of the "self-drive tour scheme" as a means for non-local pregnant women to enter Hong Kong; if so, of the specific details; if not, whether it has any plan to update the facilities; if it has, of the implementation timetable?



     In formulating the implementation arrangements for the first phase of the ad hoc quota trial scheme for cross-boundary private cars (the Scheme), we have carefully considered the possible abuse of the private cars concerned and put in place appropriate regulatory measures.  For example, each eligible car owner is allowed to apply for only one quota at one time and a new reservation can only be made at least six weeks from the effective start date of the last quota approved; the applicant has to be on board the private car concerned upon entering the Guangdong Province; the applicant has to be one of the designated drivers and meet the relevant eligibility requirements; the private car concerned can only be driven by no more than two designated drivers to make one round trip to and from the Guangdong Province during the specified period through only the Shenzhen Bay Port, where designated clearance kiosks have been arranged for cross-boundary vehicles under the Scheme.

     Both the governments of Guangdong and Hong Kong have a full grasp of the particulars about the applicants, drivers and vehicles using the ad hoc quotas under the Scheme.  Such particulars facilitate follow-up and investigation of suspected cases by the law enforcement departments.  The two governments will definitely act on any illegality and irregularities in accordance with the law.

     Based on the information provided by the Food and Health Bureau and the Security Bureau, my reply to the two parts of the question raised by the Hon Ip is as follows:

(a) Currently, the Department of Health (DH) has deployed a total of 14 doctors and 21 nurses (comprising both full-time and part-time staff) to the Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau Boundary Control Points (BCPs) to assist the Immigration Department (ImmD) by giving professional assessment and advice on pregnancy and other physical conditions of non-local pregnant women.  The DH will recruit additional doctors and nurses for stationing at the BCPs at Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau and Shenzhen Bay to enhance its support to the ImmD.  Healthcare professionals of the DH will work shifts to provide services during all opening hours of the BCPs.

     In addition to healthcare professionals, 42 health surveillance assistants of the DH are stationed at the relevant BCPs to identify non-local pregnant women by visual inspection.  They will request these pregnant visitors to produce proof of delivery booking in Hong Kong to help separate non-local pregnant women with booking and those without, and direct them to the appropriate immigration counters for arrival clearance.  Since it is voluntary for non-local pregnant women to show the health surveillance assistants their travel documents to indicate if delivery booking has been made, the assistants will, in case of refusal to produce such documents, immediately approach immigration officers for assistance and follow-up.  The ImmD has posted notices at the relevant BCPs to inform inbound visitors of the immigration control arrangements relating to non-local pregnant women.   

     The DH will flexibly deploy healthcare professionals and health surveillance assistants to various BCPs according to operational needs, and monitor the situation closely with the ImmD for reviewing manpower requirements.

(b) Non-local pregnant women found entering Hong Kong on private cars using the ad hoc quotas are treated no differently from those found on other cross-boundary vehicles.  They will be further questioned by immigration officers upon arrival and requested to produce the "Certificate on confirmed antenatal and delivery booking" issued by a Hong Kong hospital.  Those who fail to produce such proof may be refused entry.

     To deter non-local pregnant women without appointment from taking the risk of gate-crashing the accident and emergency departments for delivery, the ImmD has comprehensively strengthened the inspection of non-local pregnant women at major BCPs, including stepping up the check on cross-boundary vehicles (including private cars using the ad hoc quotas).

     The DH staff will assist officers of the ImmD to screen out non-local pregnant women by visual inspection at the vehicle clearance kiosks at the BCP.  Where necessary, passengers on board may be requested to co-operate in order that the screening process can be completed.  The two departments will maintain close communication and co-ordination, and review their work arrangements from time to time to strengthen the relevant checks so as to do the gate-keeping work properly.

Ends/Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:00


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