One of the major conflicts between Hong Kong and China stems from birth tourism. According to official statistics, 95,337 babies were born in Hong Kong in 2011 and as much as 40% of babies’ parents are birth tourists from Mainland China.
According to the Hong Kong Basic Law, the mini-constitution in Hong Kong, children born to parents of Chinese origin can enjoy right of abode and full citizenship even though neither of the parents is a local resident. As a result, a large number of mainland Chinese pregnant women travel to Hong Kong to give birth so as to escape from the one-child policy and pave the future for their offspring.
Since 2009, the shortage of maternity wards in private hospitals alerted local mothers. Public discontent exploded when a local newspaper reported at the end of 2011 that maternity places in these hospitals are fully booked until October 2012. Against this background, the Facebook Group “Say No to Mainland pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong!” [founded in July 2011] has recruited more than 112,000 followers within 6 months.
The discontented local mothers also blame the influx of mainland pregnant women for the decline in the quality of maternity services in Hong Kong. Below is the experience of a new mother in the maternity ward shared in Facebook [Link to the widely shared note is not provided as the user profile is not public]:
In reaction to the public discontent, the Hong Kong government has finally decided to suspend the booking of maternity services by mainland pregnant women in public hospitals. However, many still believe that the large number of offspring of birth tourists from mainland China would increase the city's social burden.
In early February 2012, netizens from Baby Kingdom and Golden Discussion Forum, jointly published an advertisement in a popular newspaper, which depicts the invasion of Hong Kong by a gigantic locust, a metaphor of mainland Chinese intruders in Hong Kong.
Margaret Ng a barrister, legislator and member of the political party, the Civic Party, pointed out that the root cause of the sudden influx of mainland birth tourists is a result of the local government's relaxation of border control under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), a free trade arrangement agreed upon between Hong Kong and Mainland China which opens up huge markets for Hong Kong goods and services.
Ng reviewed the city's immigration history in relation to its border control policy in a seminar [zh]:
從兩地封關開始，出入境設有嚴格的關卡，互為分隔。而八十年代到內地娶妻生子的一群，其子女就受到影響，很難來港。當時兩地政府便就兩地的出入境限制協商，結果出現「配額」這種東西。在這個背景下訂立的《中英聯合聲明》，成為日後《基本法》的依據。…直至 2001 年，內地人要來香港仍然十分困難。但自從 2003 年七一後開放自由行，至去年全年共有一千四百萬內地人來港，僅有四萬雙非孕婦數量算少。
Against such a background, Facebook user Edwin Chau condemned the private medical sector for taking advantage of the policy loophole to sell their maternity services with a Hong Kong “citizenship” package, as the majority of birth tourists enter the city with proper bookings from private hospitals:
因為實情是，那3萬多個，佔96%的雙非個案，全部都是有政府認可的預約。即是，他們都是經政府人口/商業政策許可之下入境的，In the name of 「發展醫療產業」。……簡單來說，販賣居港權，才是要堵塞的漏洞。
Some social and political groups have decided to advocate for an constitutional amendment to address the problem. However, an amendment of the Basic Law has to be approved by at least two-thirds of the Legislative Council members and two-thirds of the Hong Kong deputies to the National People’s Congress (NPC) before submitting to the Steering Committee of the National People’s Congress. This seems to be another mission impossible.