News / Asia

Hong Kong Frustrated About Influx of Chinese Births

Ivan Broadhead

Some residents in Hong Kong are expressing frustration at the pressure put on its public services by thousands of pregnant women from mainland China. Some people believe these expectant mothers are secretly entering the territory to give birth and secure for their child the so-called "right of abode" in Hong Kong and lifelong access to a standard of public education and health care unavailable in China.

Hong Kong has proudly preserved a unique social and cultural identity, both under British colonial rule and since the return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

That identity continues to flourish, in part because Beijing has tolerated Hong Kong’s relative autonomy since the hand over under the principle of “One Country, Two Systems.”

But legislator Leung Yiu-chung does not believe that Hong Kong residents identify readily with the notion of one nation.

“When you are talking about identity, I think people in Hong Kong seldom recognize themselves as Chinese; from China.  We don’t want the Chinese government, or Chinese people who come from China, to rule Hong Kong,” Leung said.

Direct political influence aside, there is increasing concern that Hong Kong’s identity risks being diluted by an ever-growing number of pregnant mainland Chinese women entering the territory to give birth.

According to Health Secretary York Chow, in 2005 such child births numbered “in the hundreds.” By last year, more than 40,000 children, or about one-half the total number of babies born in Hong Kong, were born to mothers from across the border.

Hong Kong University constitutional law analyst Benny Tai says that, if that rate continues, in 10 to 15 years mainland Chinese will form a substantial part of the Hong Kong population.  
“So people will worry that this will change the culture of Hong Kong society; our core values will be “polluted.” That is why it is contentious,” Tai stated.

Hong Kong immigration officials refused entry to 3,560 pregnant mainland women last year. But more are arriving in Hong Kong every day; some opportunistically walking through border controls, others smuggled across by organized crime syndicates in trucks and even speedboats.

The health service says it cannot cope. Emergency room staff are overwhelmed by the number of mainland women in labor - around 1,650 in 2011 compared to just 500 in 2010.

As a deterrent, Mainlanders are now charged around $6,000 to give birth in the territory. However, a 2001 judgment by the Court of Final Appeal found that Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, confers the right of abode on any child of Mainland parents born in the territory.

The right of abode confers eligibility to access Hong Kong’s public services, including health, education and housing. Critics say $6,000 is money well spent to pay for services that are unavailable in China.

Public protests are increasing. They include pregnant Hong Kong women who say their own deliveries are threatened by the strains put on medical resources.

The identity debate intensified in late December, when Hong Kong University’s annual public opinion poll on perceptions of ethnicity indicated that over 70 percent of respondents considered themselves to be “Hongkongers” before being “Chinese.” The figure represented a 10-year high.

Within days, the polling unit’s director, Robert Chung, was publicly rebuked by Hao Tiechuan, a senior Beijing envoy.

Hao was quoted in local media, saying that Hong Kong is not an independent political entity.

With the Chinese year of the Dragon approaching -- a popular and auspicious year to give birth -- the debate about mainland babies has been picked up by candidates in Hong Kong’s forthcoming leadership election.

On Sunday, Albert Ho was chosen by the city’s pan-democratic coalition to compete against two pro-Beijing candidates for the office of chief executive. In a radio broadcast Monday, he called for the Basic Law to be amended to, in his words, “plug the floodgates”.

Benny Tai agrees that such an outcome could occur, but says he has reservations. “To amend the Basic Law … or to have a reinterpretation of the Basic Law … creates more problems," he said. "That will require the assistance of the central government.”

Any intervention by Beijing would inevitably cause concern in a city used to solving its own problems, without Mainland interference.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid