Three Chinese women who gave birth in Hong Kong have each been sentenced to 12 months in jail for overstaying in the territory, authorities said on Friday, as part of measures to discourage birth tourism.
The women — who entered the territory as visitors in May, June and July last year — were each arrested late last year after rushing to hospitals for delivery without a booking, a government statement said.
“The Immigration Department is concerned about the situation of overstaying Mainland pregnant women seeking to give birth in Hong Kong,” said the statement, citing an immigration department spokesman.
“Great efforts are made to strengthen the examination of Mainland pregnant women at the control points,” the spokesman added.
The southern territory of 7 million people has been struggling to cope with tens of thousands of Chinese women who arrive yearly to give birth, thereby gaining residency rights for their children.
In a bid to ease pressure on local hospitals, last year the government banned pregnant Chinese whose husbands are not from Hong Kong from giving birth in the territory.
The three women were each charged with one count of breach of condition of stay and pleaded guilty at Sha Tin Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday and Friday, it said.
“During the trials, all three defendants admitted that they had been pregnant before arrival in Hong Kong. They also confessed to having no prior booking for obstetric services,” the statement released on Friday said.
It was not immediately clear for how long the women had initially been permitted to stay. Visitors who breach their conditions of stay can receive fines of up to HK$50,000 (US$6,500) and two years in jail.
Chinese accounted for nearly half of Hong Kong’s 88,000 births in 2010, prompting an outcry over shortages of beds in maternity wards.