Basic law amendment, only if all else fails

Updated: 2012-02-10 08:04

By Joseph Li (HK Edition)

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Chief Executive Donald Tsang (CE) for the first time has discussed finding a solution to the issue of what he called "doubly unqualified" mainland women giving birth to babies in Hong Kong.

During a radio interview, he defined "doubly unqualified" as referring to babies born to mainland women without Hong Kong permanent residency and whose husbands also are not legally resident in the SAR.

The CE said the government remains bound by a 2001 decision by the Court of Final Appeal giving right of citizenship to infants born to "doubly unqualified couples".

Tsang said that the government prefers immediate administrative measures to the two more decisive alternatives of seeking an interpretation of the Basic Law by the National People's Congress or amending the Basic Law.

"Revision to the Basic Law is a very big action. It is also unprecedented and very difficult," he pointed out. "Equally, interpretation of the Basic Law is highly controversial and again cannot resolve such a pressing problem. For the time being, administrative measures will be adopted. Only when they cannot work will we go to the extremes."

Tsang noted that the four measures he announced to the Legislative Council last month for limiting expectant mothers from coming across the border appear to be paying off. At the end of last year, the average number of pregnant mainlanders without medical appointments rushing to emergency units was close to 50 per week. The number has dropped to 20-odd recently, he said, stressing that priority obstetrics services will be provided to local mothers.

At recent meetings, Tsang discussed the problem with Guangdong Governor Zhu Xiaodan. The two also exchanged information related to unlawful agents who arrange for the expectant mothers to come to Hong Kong and discussed registering the numbers of cross-boundary vehicles carrying the women.

"Those unlawful agencies should be eliminated," Tsang said.

At the same time, the Hospital Authority will impose quotas on mainland women giving birth in public hospitals, raise fees for mainland women rushing to emergency units, while the Home Affairs Bureau has enhanced its raids on unlicensed hostels that provide accommodation to the expectant mothers from the mainland.

Tsang also discussed several recent incidents, during which there has been conflicts between people from the mainland and people from Hong Kong. He said the conflicts arose from cultural differences between the two places and called on people to be more accommodating to one another.

Tsang said he believes Hong Kong is an open, pluralistic, accommodating society. "We welcome people from all over the world to travel, shop and do business in Hong Kong," he said. "For people from the mainland, I believe we can accommodate them as long as we come from the same country and same race."

joseph@chinadailyhk.com

China Daily

(HK Edition 02/10/2012 page1)