Birth Tourists Face Prison in Hong Kong

About 420 mainland Chinese women have been sentenced to prison in Hong Kong since October 2010 for violating immigration laws in order to give birth in the city, according to  Te-Ping Chen of the Wall Street Journal.

In April, the city’s Chief Executive, C.Y. Leung, announced a zero tolerance policy towards birth tourists. There have also been prosecutions of the shady immigration agents arranging birth tourism. And the number of expectant mothers denied admission at the border has gone up.

One attraction for the mainland mothers is the city’s Basic Law. That law grants Chinese citizens born there the right of abode, including the right to a Hong Kong passport. A 2001 court case, Director of Immigration v. Chong Fung Yuen, affirmed that this right extends even to the children of Mainland parents who themselves are not residents of Hong Kong.

A second draw to expectant mothers is that giving birth in the city is arguably a loophole to Mainland’s one-child policy, although some Mainland couples have reported being fined or losing jobs in government or state-owned enterprises after giving birth in Hong Kong.

A thriving industry of agencies promoting birth tourism has exacerbated the problem. The agencies are set up in many first tier cities in the Mainland providing an arrangement of services, including booking hospitals, transportation, prenatal examinations, accommodation, delivery services, postnatal care, birth registering and retrieving different certificates and visas. A key aspect of their business is smuggling expectant mothers across the border.

For more about birth tourism, see this 3-part series:

  • Part 1 is an English translation of an investigative report about these agencies by Yicai, a Chinese financial news website.
  • Part 2 discusses Hong Kong’s struggle with the problem.
  • Part 3 discusses possible U.S. policy responses to the problem.

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