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Surrogacy flourishes despite crackdown

2013-04-08 10:06 Global Times     Web Editor: Wang Fan comment

Despite law enforcers shutting down a surrogacy service in the capital last month, similar agencies are still providing the lucrative but illegal service in the city.

Hong Kong Fuchen Corporation is under investigation by the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau due to allegedly providing a surrogacy service, which is forbidden in China. It was raided by police on March 25, as part of a crackdown on the management of assisted reproductive technology.

"The case is still under investigation; it takes time to collect evidence and needs the cooperation of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau," said Ma Yanming, media officer of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau.

"Such crackdowns will be a consistent task for us, and the punishment for such law violations will become more severe to stop them from happening again," Ma said.

But according to a Global Times' undercover investigation on the surrogacy market in Beijing, although most agencies had stopped surrogacy services due to the government crackdown, some are still open for business.

"We can still provide a surrogacy service. The customer reception section, surrogate administration section, and the hospital surgery section are separate, so it's hard for the government to discover us and collect evidence," said an employee surnamed Feng from the Tianjiao surrogacy agency.

"But even if we are caught while the surrogate is undergoing the insemination procedure, which is the weak link, we can negotiate a settlement for refund to the customers. But that's rare, because we have 'connections' in Chaoyang district," she said.

The agency is in the Wangjing area, Chaoyang district, but Feng refused to give further details about the address. It does not have a sign to avoid attracting attention from the authorities.

The cost for the surrogacy service is around 700,000 yuan ($112,910), including about 180,000 yuan payment for the surrogate. They also offer sex selection of the fetus, for which the customer has to pay 150,000 yuan extra.

"We select the right type of sperm, so the baby must be a boy. And if that technology fails, the baby's gender can be easily told after three months of pregnancy, so if it's not a boy, the surrogate can abort it, it's as easy as that," she said.

The surrogates they hire are mostly young girls from 22 to 32 years old, some of whom are college graduates who cannot find a job and some are high school graduates.

All have had a health check, and if the customers do not trust the information, they can have them checked again at their own cost.

They provide three to four surrogates for one customer to choose from. They are at least 162 centimeters tall, and weigh under 58 kilograms.

"Unlike the traditional ways of getting pregnant, it's easier for thinner people to become successfully pregnant using artificial means," she said.

She also said that they can arrange the birth at top-ranked hospitals which are certified for artificial reproduction, of which Beijing has 16, because they have connections with them. The doctors there would turn a blind eye to their activities behind the scene, the employee assured.

Some assisted reproduction services like artificial insemination and test tube babies are allowed in China, but clients have to provide documents, including ID card, marriage certificate, and birth approval certificate. But surrogacy agencies only require the ID cards of the couple.

Ma Jinzhen, a marriage lawyer from Beijing Tongchuan Law Firm, said that although surrogacy is forbidden in China, there is only one sentence in the law referencing it, and there are no specifics on punishments for agencies or the surrogates.

"This is a new thing in recent years, and the law always has a time lag from the social development. This is still a blank area in China's legal system," she said.

Ma Jinzhen said it is hard to discover the agencies, because they cannot register as it violates the law. Sometimes they hide behind another company like a beauty parlor.

"Once such cases are discovered, they can be punished for not carrying out the business they are registered as doing, but they will only be penalized financially, not criminally for that," she noted.

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