08/28/2006, 00.00
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Hong Kong: mainland China mothers abandon babies with abnormalities

The number of newborn babies abandoned because of abnormalities and congenital diseases is increasing at a worrying rate. "Tourist mothers" try to give birth in the Territory to guarantee their children Hong Kong citizenship.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Lack of prenatal care among expectant mothers from mainland China is becoming a problem in Hong Kong, as revealed by an increasing number of babies with abnormalities abandoned in the Territory.

More and more women seek to deliver their babies in hospitals in the ex-British colony and many abandon them after they are born: they are unaware that most paediatric medical problems are easily resolved.

These "tourist mothers" migrate to Hong Kong because their children will immediately be granted local citizenship by virtue of being born in the Territory. According to the Census and Statistics Department, 11,716 babies, or about 20% of all births in Hong Kong from mid-2005 to mid-2006, were to parents who were both non-Hong Kong residents.

"Since there is no prenatal care in China, this can put pregnancies in high risk," said Cheung Kam-lau, consultant paediatrician at Prince of Wales Hospital's neonatal care unit. "Most of these mothers expect healthy, chubby babies, but things just don't always happen ideally." He continued: "Many mothers are not prepared for abnormal births or congenital diseases, such as Down's syndrome and so they abandon them."

Cheung said many mothers-to-be admitted themselves to hospital at a very late stage of pregnancy, something that created further problems in monitoring the foetus. Often they felt revulsion for babies born with defects that could be dealt with.

The doctor recalled how "about three months ago, we took care of a boy whose ears and jaw were deformed. The parents already had two healthy girls and were shocked. I explained to them that with surgery, the boy would be able to hear normally but they abandoned him." He added: ""We all feel very sad about the baby's future. There is one more orphan in this world."

In another case, a non-resident couple was about to abandon their son who had Down's Syndrome. The doctor said: "Many 'tourists' don't know what kind of treatment we offer here in Hong Kong. In this case, we convinced the parents that the son could enjoy a decent quality of life and we managed to persuade them not to abandon him."

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