LCQ8: Government will continue to step up the interception and enforcement actions against non-local pregnant women
Hong Kong (HKSAR) - Following is a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee, to a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung in the Legislative Council today (November 28):
In April this year, the authorities introduced a series of administrative measures to step up efforts in combating pregnant mainland women whose spouses are not Hong Kong permanent residents, commonly known as "doubly non-permanent resident pregnant women" (DNRP women), giving birth in Hong Kong. These measures included strengthening the interception of DNRP women not having the Confirmation Certificate on Delivery Booking (the Confirmation Certificate) at boundary control points. The Chief Executive-elect had also indicated that the quota for DNRP women to give birth in Hong Kong would be zero in 2013.
It has been reported that despite the drop in the recent months in the number of cases of DNRP women, who do not have the Confirmation Certificate, crossing the boundary and rushing into the accident and emergency departments of public hospitals to give birth shortly before labour, some mainland agents have been arranging DNRP women to engage in bogus marriage with Hong Kong residents and then come to Hong Kong to give birth. These agents also help these pregnant women reserve beds for delivery in private hospitals in Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the number of DNRP women who gave birth in Hong Kong since April this year; how this figure compares with that in the same period last year;
(b) of the number of cases of bogus marriage detected by the authorities since April this year and, among these cases, the number of those which were related to the purpose of giving birth in Hong Kong; the number of cases in which the persons involved were convicted;
(c) given that the aforesaid agents provide "through-train" services (including reservation of hospital beds, accommodation in Hong Kong and application for relevant documents after delivery, etc.) and their modes of operations are varied, whether the authorities have set up a dedicated department to combat the activities of these agents; if they have, of the details and the effectiveness; if not, the reasons for that;
(d) whether the authorities will further step up the relevant administrative measures and impose heavy penalty on DNRP women who come to give birth in Hong Kong; if they will, of the details; whether the authorities will eradicate DNRP women giving birth in Hong Kong through introducing legislation; if they will, of the details; and
(e) given that the authorities have indicated that they would cooperate with the relevant mainland departments and take joint law enforcement actions to combat the activities of those agents, of the details and progress?
The Government's established healthcare policy is to ensure that local pregnant women are given high standard obstetric services.
They will be accorded priority, obstetric services will only be made available to non-local pregnant women when there is spare capacity. To this end, the Government has, in 2011, put in place a number of measures, including the setting of limit to the number of deliveries in Hong Kong in 2012 by non-local pregnant women.
The Government announced on April 17 that in 2013, there would not be any quota for non-local pregnant women, whose husbands are non-Hong Kong residents, to give birth in Hong Kong. Both public and private hospitals will not accept any bookings by non-local pregnant women for delivery in Hong Kong in 2013.
Meanwhile, under the existing arrangements, Mainland pregnant women whose husbands are Hong Kong permanent residents or holders of the Permit for Proceeding to Hong Kong and Macao (One-way Permit) may make delivery bookings for 2013 at local private hospitals after antenatal checkup in Hong Kong and upon referral by the attending doctor, and be issued the Confirmation Certificate on Delivery Booking (Confirmation Certificate).
To complement the above healthcare policy, non-local pregnant women who are pregnant for 28 weeks or more have to produce a Confirmation Certificate issued by Hong Kong hospitals for checking by immigration officers when they enter Hong Kong or else they may be refused entry. Since late 2011, the Immigration Department (ImmD) has enhanced the relevant complementary immigration measures. The number of Mainland pregnant women gate-crashing the Accident and Emergency Departments (A&EDs) without prior booking has dropped substantially from 150 per month during the period from September to December 2011, to 90 between January and April 2012.
The monthly figure further dropped to 40 from May to August, and 25 in September and October, showing that the relevant administrative measures are effective.
The relevant departments will continue to step up the interception and enforcement actions against non-local pregnant women, including combating intermediaries involving in illicit activities to assist Mainland pregnant women to give birth in Hong Kong. The relevant departments will also maintain close liaison and adjust enforcement strategies according to the actual circumstances.
Replies to the five parts of the question are as follows:
(a) From April to October 2012, Mainland pregnant women whose husbands are non-Hong Kong residents gave birth to some 15,600 babies in Hong Kong, representing a drop by about 30% compared to some 21,290 during the same period in 2011.
(b) Under the existing special arrangements, Mainland pregnant women whose husbands are Hong Kong permanent residents or holders of One-way Permit may make bookings at local private hospitals for delivery in 2013. Such couple are required to submit the following documents to the private hospital concerned:
(1) A Hong Kong certificate of marriage, or a certificate of marriage notarised by a notary public office in the Mainland;
(2) The husband's Hong Kong permanent resident identity card or Hong Kong identity card;
(3) The husband's Permit for Proceeding to Hong Kong and Macao (if he is not a Hong Kong permanent resident); and
(4) An oath taken by the Hong Kong husband to confirm the authenticity of the marriage certificate provided and/or their marriage relationship.
Each couple will also be required to sign a consent form authorising the authority to conduct checks with the relevant Hong Kong and Mainland departments on their marriage certificate, identity and other documents.
The Department of Health (DH) will closely monitor and conduct checks on the documents.
The DH will enhance the checking with the ImmD and refer suspected cases to the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) for follow-up actions in accordance with the law. The ImmD, Police and DH will also enhance the communication with private hospitals and closely monitor doubtful cases of making delivery bookings through bogus marriages.
In addition, the ImmD has since last year stepped up inspection of marriage registrations between Hong Kong and Mainland residents. The ImmD will promptly investigate suspected cases and follow up with prosecution in accordance with the law.
From April to October 2012, there were 445 persons suspected of involving in bogus marriages, among whom 136 were convicted of offences relating to bogus marriage and given imprisonment sentences ranging normally from five to 18 months. The ImmD does not have the breakdown on cases of making delivery bookings through bogus marriages.
(c) and (e) To combat the problem of Mainland pregnant women gate-crashing the A&EDs to give birth in Hong Kong without delivery bookings, the Government established, in February 2012, a liaison mechanism with the Guangdong authorities to enhance the exchange of intelligence. At present, the LEAs of HKSAR have set up task forces to implement enhanced enforcement measures against illicit intermediaries assisting Mainland pregnant women to give birth in Hong Kong.
These include stepping up the inspection of dubious intermediaries and referring doubtful intermediaries to the Guangdong authorities for follow-up actions. The Police also closely monitors activities of the intermediaries through cyber patrol and will follow up with any illegal act detected in accordance with the law. In 2012, 12 individuals involved in illicit activities to assist Mainland pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong (including intermediaries and cross-boundary vehicle drivers) were jailed and their sentences ranged from eight weeks to a year.
Apart from strengthening the inspection of non-local pregnant women and those suspected of assisting them to give birth in Hong Kong at immigration control points, the LEAs have, in conjunction with the Office of Licensing Authority of the Home Affairs Department, stepped up the inspection and enforcement against unlicensed guesthouses to deter non-local women from entering Hong Kong early and going into hiding in order to evade immigration examination.
(d) The LEAs are committed to combating Mainland pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong through illicit means.
From October 2011 to October 2012, the ImmD prosecuted 436 Mainland women having overstayed to give birth in Hong Kong. In 2012, the ImmD prosecuted three Mainland women who gave birth in Hong Kong through illicit means (one involved in conspiracy to defraud, one making a false representation to an immigration officer, one having in her possession a false instrument and making a false representation to an immigration officer). All Mainland women concerned were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment terms up to eight months.
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