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More Wombs, More Babies? China Hints at Legalizing Surrogacy to Increase Birth Rates

A state media article that calls for a loosening of surrogacy bans has stirred controversy among Chinese Weibo users.

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Chinese Party newspaper People’s Daily published an article on Friday that featured older couples struggling with infertility and called for a loosening of surrogacy bans. The article immediately stirred controversy among Chinese Weibo users.

January 2016 officially marked the end of China’s contentious one-child policy of 36 years that made it illegal for couples to give birth to more than one baby, implemented to slow the country’s population growth rate. Since the end of the policy, couples of which at least one of the pair is an only child are legally permitted to have a second child.

Unsurprisingly, 2016 saw the highest birth rate in a century. With 17.86 million of births in total, there was an increase of 7.9% in childbirths compared to the year before according to China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission.

 

“Doctors suggest to relax existing surrogacy bans while still preventing commercialization of the practice.”

 

However, the figure still falls short of government’s estimations for the population to reach 1.42 billion by 2020, and might be too low to balance the consequences of the aging society and the shrinking workforce. By 2050, 370 million people in China are expected to be aged 65+ – it is often called a “demographic crisis.”

When dropping the one child policy, Chinese authorities also halted a plan to ban surrogate motherhood. Since 2001, the Ministry of Health laid out rules that made it illegal for medical staff to offer surrogacy services, and in 2015 there were official plans to completely curb surrogate pregnancies.

The timing of the reversal of the surrogacy ban was ambiguous, especially because it was called “unprecedented” for the Chinese government to reverse a draft law after it has already been publicized.

On Friday, an article in Chinese state newspaper People’s Daily enraged Chinese netizens as it focused on the topic of second pregnancies in older couples and suggested a legalization of surrogacy to give couples more opportunities to have a (second) child.

It says:

“In the ninety million families that are qualified to have the second child in China, 60% of women are over 35 years old and 50% are over 40. The fertility rate is obviously going down because women are getting older, and the average age for a woman to have a last pregnancy is generally around the age of 40. Therefore, doctors suggest to relax existing surrogacy bans while still preventing commercialization of the practice.”

Surrogacy often comes up when there are fertility problems or other reasons; a surrogate mother can carry the baby for a couple through artificial insemination of the father’s sperm, or, if possible, through IVF.

 

“They have totally gone mad! Surrogacy was illegal and now it is being promoted to increase birth rates!”

 

Perhaps uncoincidentally, one of the most controversial sketches of the CCTC Chinese New Year Gala last week focused on an older couple of which the woman was not able to conceive. The sketch also mentions the possibility of IVF, and led to angry reactions on Weibo of women who felt like the government was pushing women to have children.

Friday’s People’s Daily article also immediately triggered thousands of comments on Chinese social media. On Weibo, there were over 14K comments within several hours.

The vast majority of commenters criticized the article and made sarcastic comments about it: “They have totally gone mad! Surrogacy was illegal and now it is being promoted to increase birth rates!”

“We as Chinese women are not being treated as human beings but as breeding machines!” some wrote.

There were also netizens that sharply pointed out the improbability of the suggestion that surrogacy could be legalized without making it commercial: “I’ve never heard of any voluntary surrogate mothers. Whoever is willing to provide this kind of service for free? What can you say to surrogate mums? ‘Sorry I need to borrow your womb?'”

There are also those who sarcastically wondered: “If we are struggling with infertility, can we expect that child trafficking will also be legal one day?”

 

“Our wombs do not belong to ourselves, but to the country and the Party.”

 

Many commenters worry about the future of birth intervention in China, writing: “When I want to have more babies, it is prohibited. And now they’ve [suddenly] worked out this unethical way to force us to give birth. This is another insane form of birth control – they may eventually start to fine couples who don’t give birth one day.”

China’s strict control over children births has been controversial in international society for a long time.

At present, only rich parents can afford to resort to alternative ways to have a child, such a IVF and using surrogate mothers or receiving high-quality medical treatment in foreign clinics.

China’s huge underground market in surrogacy has thus been rapidly growing with demands largely exceeding supplies. According to the article, the number of couples suffering from infertility in China is about 15 million, which means that whether surrogacy remains illegal or not, it will still be a booming sector with potential profits.

There have been radical changes in China’s child policies over the recent years: from “over-produced” children being deprived of official documentation for basic social services to the wide-publicizing encouragement of second babies’ births.

“Our wombs do not belong to ourselves, but to the country and the Party,” one female Weibo user sadly commented.

– By Yue Xin
Follow on Twitter or Like on Facebook

(Featured image: the slogan on the wall in rural China has been edited after the change of policy. Photo credit to CNR. “Better to let the blood flows like river, not allowing to give birth to one more/less.”)

Additional editing by Manya Koetse
©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Yue Xin is a bilingual freelance journalist currently based in the Netherlands with a focus on gender issues and literature in China. As a long-time frequent Weibo user, she is specialized in the buzzwords and hot topics on Chinese social media.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jully

    February 4, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Oh, they have a great population. In fact, they even have two-children policy. It was made not for nothing. Thus, they give birth many. But, you know, at the same time, there are families who have infertility. One couple can have three babies, for example. While, another family can have none. In such situationб infertile will feel a piece of in justice. And I can understand them. Thus, it is rather complicated issue. Interests of all people must be considered. As of surrogacy, maybe it can be allowed only for infertile. It can be used only in the case of medical reasons. In such cases, it can be. It must be only strictly regulated.

  2. Siobhan Justin

    February 11, 2017 at 6:36 am

    The logical course of action would be to lift the bans on childbirth altogether. The two child policy isn’t much better than the one child policy; it still leads to forced abortions. Procreation is a gift from God; it should not be limited by man.

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China Health

Exam Room For HIV-positive Students Sparks Social Media Storm in China

For the first time ever in China, HIV-positive students will take the national college exams in a separate examination room at a special school in Linfen, Shanxi. News of the segregated exam site has triggered intense debate among Weibo netizens over the past few days.

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For the first time ever in China, HIV-positive students will take the national college exams in a separate examination room at a special school in Linfen, Shanxi. News of the segregated exam site has triggered intense debate among Weibo netizens over the past few days.

Linfen Red-Ribbon School, the only special school for HIV-infected children in China, sparked a social media storm in early June when Shanxi Daily reported that its students would take their national exams in a special exam room, instead of taking it at the standard local exam site together with other students.

The Red Ribbon School was established in December of 2011, and has since been included in the national education system. The Institute offers free food, dorms, medical services, and psychological treatment for its 33 students, who come from all over China.

China’s national college exam, better known as the gaokao (高考), is the National Higher Entrance Examination. For most students, it is the most important exam of their life.

The Red Ribbon School received official authorization to let 16 of its students take the national exam within the school premises. The students have lived and studied at the Institute since 2004. All prerequisites for the official exam, including CCTV and surveillance equipment, have now been installed in two designated gaokao rooms. There are separate rooms for candidates in liberal arts and science.

The idea for the special exam site was originally suggested by Guo Xiaoping, the school’s headmaster. People with HIV often still face severe stigma and discrimination in China. “It is unrealistic to prevent all discrimination in modern-day society,” Guo said in an interview with the Shanxi Daily: “Some people might object to taking tests together with our students. It was my proposal to set up a separate place for them, and it was then approved by the education and exam council. The establishment of this examination site is of major significance.”

But not all netizens agreed on the helpfulness of separate exam rooms, and it triggered wider debates on the existence of the school itself. One Chinese web user objected: “’Red-Ribbon school’? Giving the school this name is like screaming from the rooftops ‘these kids are sick!’ This institution is unprecedentedly wicked rather than meaningful.”

Another person ridiculed the exam arrangements, pointing out that it reinforced discrimination instead of eliminating it.

There are also many people who approve of the school; but also because they are worried about their own ‘safety.’ On the Weibo page of Chinanews, the comment that received the most ‘likes’ explained a concerned parent’s perspective: “Would you feel safe knowing your kid is playing with those HIV-positive children? They are so little and don’t know how to protect themselves. Something might happen that leads to contact with blood.”

“I bet that half of the comments here are just out of political correctness. To be honest, I don’t want to live with HIV-students in the same college because I’m afraid that I might have some dangerous physical contact with them without even knowing it.”

There are also Weibo commenters who support headmaster Guo Xiaoping. “He’s a great man who quit his job as the president of the Linfen People’s Hospital to devote himself to building this school to help HIV-infected kids receive a proper education. It is really unfair to talk badly about such a kind old man and these poor children.”

In 2014, over half a million (501,000) of China’s population were reportedly living with HIV. Although the number of HIV cases is relatively low in China, this has also intensified existing stigmas and fear (see this 2009 study on stigma and discrimination among people with HIV in low HIV-prevalence contexts).

HIV-infected children in China are often forced to drop out of school because of poverty, discrimination, and poor health. In 2014, the 8-year-old HIV-infected Kunkun made headlines when he was banished from his village for the ‘safety’ of his neighbors. He later found a new home at the Red Ribbon school.

Sixth Tone recently reported that many workers with Chinese Hepatitis B seek body doubles to pass health checks in the workplace to avoid discrimination. Similar practices also occur with HIV carriers. Taboos surrounding the disease are so strong that some Chinese doctors still fear treating HIV/Aids patients, despite anti-discrimination rules.

Looking at the many comments on Chinese social media about the facts and falsehoods about HIV/Aids, it is clear that there is still a long road ahead for HIV awareness in China – especially because sexual education is still a controversial topic.

Through an open letter online, one of the students of the Red Ribbon School also gave their view and final say on the matter. They wrote: “I just want to go to college, achieve my dreams and pay back those who love me. The nearer the gaokao is, the heavier my heart feels. So many questions have been troubling me: whether I will be accepted to a university, if the teachers will accept me as a normal student, and whether my classmates will study and live with me.”

The students of the Red Ribbon Schools will be taking their exams on June 7 and 8. One 19-year-old Weibo netizen wishes the students the best: “As a Linfen resident, this moves me to tears, and I am proud of Linfen. All these keyboard warriors need to shut up and stop discriminating. You can’t deprive these students of their rights. I wish them all the good luck for their exams!”

– By Yue Xin
Follow on Twitter or Like on Facebook

Additional editing by Manya Koetse
©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Health

Another Hospital Scandal: Nanchang Doctor Asks Woman for More Money during Abortion

A news story about a doctor forcing her patient into paying more money during an abortion procedure has sparked anger on Chinese social media about illegal practices at Chinese hospitals.

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A news story about a doctor forcing her patient into paying more money during an abortion procedure has sparked anger on Chinese social media about illegal practices at Chinese hospitals.

A second-year female student named Xiao Chen (小陈) from Nanchang became a much-discussed topic on Weibo on April 11 when she told journalists about her traumatic experience while she was undergoing an abortion at a Nanchang hospital (南昌建设医院).

During the surgery, the doctor asked her to pay more money to undergo another procedure. When she declined, the doctor moved the medical instrument inside her, causing excruciating pain that did not stop until the girl agreed to pay for the second procedure.

“I had only come in for the abortion and did not understand why I would have to undergo another procedure,” the young woman told Pear News. Xiao Chen paid 2800 RMB (±405US$) for the abortion.

The doctor allegedly told the girl she had cervical erosion and that she needed a second procedure for that, costing an additional 4000 RMB (±580US$). The college student told the media that she could not afford that amount of money and that she initially declined and told the doctor to stop the surgery altogether, but that the doctor hurt her until she agreed to go forwards.

When journalists went to interview the doctor, she denied the incident occurred and offered them a red envelope with money to keep the story out of the press. The envelope was declined by the journalists, who included the bribery incident in their report.

The doctor at the Nanchang hospital offered journalists a bribe to keep the story out of the news.

On Weibo, the report ignited a storm of criticism; but the discussion soon derailed with netizens discussing the fact that the girl had an abortion in the first place. “This is not about her having an abortion, it’s her life, this is about the hospital using these kind of violent measures to force people into agreeing for a procedure,” one person said.

“This doctor should be forced and never allowed to practice a medical profession again,” a typical comment read.

Hospital scandals frequently become trending topics on Chinese social media. In late 2016, the personal account of a young woman’s horrific plastic surgery experience, during which she was sexually molested by a doctor in Shanghai’s Ninth People’s Hospital, also went viral on Chinese social media.

On the website of Nanchang hospital its abortions are promoted as being “painless” (see featured image).

“This girl is really brave for coming out about what happened to her,” one person writes: “She needs to stand up for her rights.”

According to the People’s Daily, the hospital has promised to compensate the young woman for what has happened.

– By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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