In February 1996, the number of days until the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong became less than 500. Unexpectedly, in 1995, emigration dropped to its lowest level in six years. In 1995, 43,000 people left the British colony, compared to 62,000 in 1994.
Some officials predict the emigration in 1996 will be only slightly higher than in 1995. Other experts predict that the number of people emigrating from Hong Kong will reach 90,000 to 100,000 in 1996, and may reach 200,000 by July 1, 1997, versus 43,000 in 1995 and 62,000 in 1994.
An estimated 10 percent of Hong Kong's 6.3 million residents could leave, i.e., up to 600,000 have foreign passports. Hong Kong's population rose by 160,000 in 1995, in part because of the immigration of 150 mainland Chinese each day and more births than deaths. An increase in foreign domestic helpers and Hong Kong returnees also contributed to the rise.
Pregnant mainland Chinese women come to Hong Kong to have their babies; in 1995, about 240 babies were born to "illegal mainlanders" each month. The Chinese women hope that their children, by being born in Hong Kong, will have a better chance of gaining residency there.
The Chinese government has announced that it will no longer give permits to pregnant women to enter Shenzhen's Shatoujiao restricted zone, from where most of the women cross to Hong Kong. The women wait until birth is imminent, cross the border, and run to the nearby fire station. The firemen are obligated to take the women to the hospital.
After birth, most of the women are repatriated to China, leaving their newborns with their Hong Kong resident fathers. Once in China, they can apply for permits to return, but most must wait 10, 20 or 40 years to rejoin their family. Some mothers are allowed back into Hong Kong temporarily on visitors visas.
One Hong Kong judge has said he will try to stop the incarceration of pregnant illegal immigrants because he does not feel it is proper for the babies to be kept in prison with their mothers.
The head of the Illegal Immigrant Control Center in Hong Kong reports that snakeheads, who have been smuggling CD-Roms, computer software and drugs between Hong Kong and China, are now smuggling pregnant women into Hong Kong.
A survey by the Hong Kong Association for Continuing Education gives poor marks to education courses designed to help mainland Chinese children integrate into Hong Kong society. The association surveyed 50 voluntary agencies that provided newly-arrived mainland children with four to six week English courses.
More than 90 percent of the 535 replies from parents, students and teachers, said the courses did not offer age and ability-appropriate education. Many children complained that it they had to search for a school that would take them--some were rejected by up to 20 schools.
Emma Batha, "More Maids, less emigration see population rise," South China Morning Post, February 23, 1996. John Flint, "Migrant courses criticized, Mainland children find integration classes unhelpful, says survey," South China Morning Post, February 22, 1996. "Emigration from Hong Kong drops," UPI, February 21, 1996. John Ridding, "Fears of hollow Hong Kong grow as China takeover nears," Financial Times, February 18, 1996. Shirley Kwok, "II births rise despite pledges," South China Morning Post, February 5, 1996. Jenni Meili Lau, "Born Free: Chinese Moms-to-be seek Promised Land," Chicago Tribune, February 4, 1996. Cliff Buddle, "Judge Steps up battle over Ils," South China Morning Post, February 2, 1996.