Pregnant women from mainland China who are near their due date will be turned away at Hong Kong borders if they cannot prove they have appointments in the city's hospitals, officials said Tuesday.
The number of births by mainland Chinese women in Hong Kong nearly doubled in 2005 -- from 10,128 in 2003 to 19,538 -- according to the city's Hospital Authority. Many come to evade China's one-child policy, take advantage of higher quality health care or earn Hong Kong residency rights for their babies.
The former British colony of Hong Kong is now under Chinese rule, but it remains separately governed and maintains immigration controls. Hong Kong residency, which is required to live in the city, is coveted by mainland Chinese because of the higher standard of living here and prospect of a better education for their children.
Starting in February, mainland Chinese women who are more than seven months pregnant cannot enter Hong Kong if they cannot prove that a Hong Kong hospital has confirmed arrangements for their admission, said Patrick Nip, deputy secretary for the Health, Welfare and Food department.
Many mainland women currently do not make bookings or provide prenatal records to Hong Kong hospitals, choosing instead to rush to emergency wards at the last minute to give birth. Some leave behind large hospital debts when they return to China.
As part of the new rules, mainland Chinese mothers will have to pay double the normal fee to give birth in Hong Kong hospitals. Medical staff stationed at border control points will help officials step up checks on women who appear far along in their pregnancies, an immigration official said.