Intersection of Law and Ethics in Hong Kong

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Intersection of Law and Ethics : Immigration Law, Right of abode in HKSAR

This paper is to investigate the case of recent action taken by the Hong Kong Government to suspend new bookings of obstetric service from non-local pregnant women in public hospital, especially to those mainland women, in order to protect right of Hong Kong women. The sudden cut affects a group of mainland women with spouse as Hong Kong permanent residents and they complain the injustice phenomenon, that arise ethical dilemma to discuss which is the aim of this paper.

The Hospital Authority in Hong Kong announced on 8 April, 2011 that public hospitals have immediately stopped accepting new bookings of obstetric service from outsiders (non-HK citizens) until the year’s end, in order to ensure local women receive adequate obstetric care. This is a big shock to most mainland pregnant women who were planning to deliver their babies here in Hong Kong aimed at ensuring their children benefit from Hong Kong’s enviable freedoms and social welfare system, and also can escape from the one-child policy in mainland China. This Hong Kong birth certificate are regarded by many as document that can change one’s destiny.

This act of the Government is apprehensible from the data of local and non-local pregnant women giving birth in public hospitals in the past five years. Together with the data from private hospitals, it soared from a few hundreds in 2004 to around 40,000 last year, contributing nearly 40% of total new born rate (88,000) in Hong Kong. The Government is encountering many problems. This is straining HK’s overall health-care system, not only on obstetric services (affecting those for the local mothers), but also infants intensive care units, and future health-care services (there were even outstanding obstetric fees when some mainland mums who left the hospitals). Brain-drained problem of medical professionals due to the tremendous workload in the obstetric department, which is a vicious cycle. Hong Kong Government also invests huge resources in education, so how will this investment expand to this portion of new immigrants? Obviously their parents are not taxpayers of the city.

However, another question of birth arose. Those mainland mothers whose spouses are Hong Kong residents called upon the Government to differentiate them from the couples both from the mainland. Last year, 20% of the non-local mothers belong to the group with spouse who is Hong Kong permanent resident. This makes the case more complicated and the Government is facing dilemma again.

The Legal Side
Law is a set of rules describing the ways in which people are required to act in their relationships with others in a society. Law provides instructions to the Government the ways to govern a society in a justice manner, so that can preserve human imprescriptible rights including property and security. Law can prohibit actions that are hurtful to society. Under these principles, it is undeniable that Hong Kong Government has to react against the phenomenon of mainland maternity which straining Hong Kong obstetric and neonatal care facilities, jeopardizing local mums and babies.

On the other hand, the sudden stop to non-local pregnant women’s bookings affects families with father as Hong Kong permanent resident but only mother from mainland. The regulations are being challenged by a local father to the Court of Appeal, as discrimination towards his mainland wife, he believes his baby should have the abode right as he is a permanent resident. According to the Secretary of Food and Health Bureau, public hospitals grant subsidies to those with Hong Kong ID cards but cannot deal with other identity documents, that means those expectants with husbands as permanent residents are not identifiable. The Government claims they have considered the best interest of society. Under this circumstance, rights of those families are...
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