By Horace Lu
In the first case of its kind, a Hong Kong court has sentenced to jail a maternity agent providing services to mainland mothers-to-be who want to deliver in the territory.
Xu Li, a 29-year-old from Hubei Province was sentenced to 10 months in jail at the Sha Tin Magistrates’ Court, for violating the conditions of her stay and making false statements to immigration authorities.
Xu had been providing maternity services, ranging from pre-natal check-ups to the booking of hotels since 2010.
The Immigration Department said it had identified another 40 mainland agents and 20 local ones, hoping to crack down on more such cases.
Principal Magistrate Andrew Ma Hon-cheung said the influx of pregnant women from mainland has affected the manpower availability and resource allocation for local maternity.
“Without the assistance and abetting by agents, it’s believed that many mainlanders would not take the risk and give birth in Hong Kong without an appointment,” said Ma.
The judge called the sentence a “deterrent sentence,” warning agents to stop risking others’ lives for their own benefits.
Li Xiaohui, the last expectant mainlander Xu served, managed to give birth in Hong Kong because her water broke in the city and had to be sent to hospital on humanitarian grounds.
Activists lobbying the government to act against mainland mother delivering in Hong Kong have welcomed the ruling.
Christine Chan, the spokeswoman of a popular Facebook campaign set up to protest against mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong, told AFP, “The judge sent a very strong message that agents who encourage pregnant mainland women to wait until the last minute and then force their way into Hong Kong emergency wards are endangering others’ lives. ”
“We’re not sure whether this sentence will deter others, so we urge the authorities to remain vigilant in their enforcement,” Chan added.
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