* Chief executive-elect Leung takes office on July 1
* Aims to end residency for children of mainland Chinese born in HK
* Boom in pregnant mainland Chinese women giving birth in HK
By Tan Ee Lyn
HONG KONG, April 17 (Reuters) - Mainland Chinese mothers who give birth in Hong Kong next year will not be able to claim permanent residence for their newborns, the financial centre’s leader-elect said on Tuesday, signalling a move toward a more populist stance once he takes office on July 1.
Leung Chun-ying was chosen as the new chief executive in March by about 1,200 notables of the former British colony and capitalist hub that returned to Chinese rule in 1997. He won over protests of some residents who accused him of being a Beijing loyalist.
Since then, however, Leung has pledged a number of reforms including limiting access to public services for mainland Chinese, direct elections within five years, and more land for middle-income housing for Hong Kong residents.
“If they apply now and prepare to come to Hong Kong next year to deliver their babies, in all likelihood, their babies will not have permanent residency status in Hong Kong because once I assume office, I will surely work on this,” Leung told Hong Kong’s Cable Television in an interview on Tuesday.
He did not say if the territory would pass laws or use other methods to stop the children of mainland parents from gaining the right of abode, or permanent residency, in Hong Kong.
In February, a group of Hong Kongers placed advertisements in a daily newspaper denouncing Chinese women for crowding out Hong Kong’s maternity wards, saying they were booked out until September.
In 2010, of the 88,584 newborns in Hong Kong, around a third, or 32,653 were born to mainland women, up from 620 babies in 2001.
The influx has spawned an industry of agents shuttling Chinese mothers across the border, hiding them in illegal ‘inns’ before birth, partly to circumvent China’s one-child policy and also to gain the right the live in one of the world’s most developed, wealthiest cities.
A broad provision in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, grants Hong Kong citizenship to any Chinese born there.
In a briefing to local reporters late on Monday, Leung said private hospitals should suspend taking in all expectant mainland Chinese women with no right of abode in Hong Kong.
“Everyone should know Hong Kong society already has a clear consensus about this matter. One, delivering babies of couples with no residency right is not the way we want to develop our healthcare industry. Two, such offspring are not the solution to the problem of our ageing population,” Leung said.
Private hospitals that increasingly rely on maternity services said a sudden policy change would have a major impact.
“Can we change our mode of operation? Yes we can, but not suddenly. If we are given say three years, we can make a long- term plan,” said Alan Lau, chairman of the Hong Kong Private Hospital’s Association.
But Henry Yeung, president of the Hong Kong Doctors’ Union, said blocking automatic permanent residency would ease the crowding at maternity wards.
“This move will return maternity beds to local mothers. Before this trend, private hospitals managed to survive.” (Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Ed Lane and Daniel Magnowski)