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China Health & Science

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
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(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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3 Comments

3 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.

  3. Megan

    July 3, 2018 at 7:50 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.

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China Health & Science

Footage Shows Mysterious Flashes Before Qinghai Earthquake

The flashes of light seen in the sky right before the Qinghai earthquake have become a trending topic on Weibo.

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Videos of the January 8th quake, which occurred in Qinghai’s Menyuan county, appear to show several intense flashes of light filling the night sky immediately preceding the quake. The videos have sparked debate among Chinese internet users as to the explanation for the brilliant lights, with some referencing the little-understood phenomenon of “Earthquake Lights.”

On January 8 at approximately 1:45 AM, Menyuan County in the Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Qinghai Province was struck by a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, damaging several homes and causing minor injuries to four people.

Photos of buildings in the area show shattered wall tiling and window glass, a partial ceiling collapse, and other minor structural damage. The area around the quake’s epicenter is sparsely populated, but tremors could be felt in numerous nearby cities including Zhangye, Wuwei, Jinchang, Lanzhou, and Linxia Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu, as well as causing railway closures along the Qinghai-Tibet and Lanzhou-Qinghai high-speed rail lines, Jiangxi Daily reports.

The earthquake was followed by several subsequent quakes, including 5 quakes of lesser magnitude all within the hour.

According to the China Earthquake Administration, the quakes continued into the 9th, with a magnitude 3.2 earthquake recorded in Menyuan county at 0:44 on January 9th.

CCTV footage shot moments before the quake and shared widely on Weibo captured a bright, explosive flash of light, which quickly disappears before a second, shorter flash lights up the night sky, followed immediately by tremors.

The footage intrigued Chinese netizens, with the hashtag “Intense Flash of Light on the Horizon Before the Qinghai Earthquake” (#青海地震前地平线出现耀眼强光#) accumulating over 100 million views by Sunday and giving rise to debate over the cause of the strange lights. Other videos capturing the flash from different angles show only one flash, or several smaller flashes along the horizon.

Much of the debate centered around whether this was a case of “Earthquake Lights” (地光/地震光, also EQLs), a controversial phenomenon among scientists which is sometimes reported before high-magnitude earthquakes, such as Italy’s 2009 L’Aquila quake.

Just before and after quakes begin, witnesses have reported seeing unexplainable light phenomena in a range of colors, ranging from brilliant white flashes as bright as daylight to a blue, flame-like glow hovering above the earth.

Explanations range from the ionization of oxygen in rocks under intense stress, piezoelectric or triboluminescent phenomena, and leaks of radioactive ionizing gas into the atmosphere to more mundane sources, such as the flailing of damaged power lines. Sometimes the lights were also said to come from UFOs or explained them in religious terms, but a 2014 study refuted this and linked the phenomenon to rift environments.

Interestingly, this is not the first time the phenomenon has been reported to precede a major earthquake in China. Some Weibo users remarked that “Earthquake Lights” had been seen before the disastrous 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which damaged or destroyed vast swathes of that city and killed over 240,000 people. Two movies depicting the quake, After the Blue Light Flashes.. (蓝光闪过之后..) and The Great Tangshan Earthquake (唐山大地震) both feature scenes of mysterious bright lights illuminating the night sky moments before tremors began.

Strange lights were also reported in the sky in Tianshui, Gansu province, preceding the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Other Weibo users remained unconvinced about the strange lights being mysterious Earthquake Lights. “Don’t freak out over it,” one user wrote: “It’s just a downed power line.”

Another online video features commentary from seismologist Chen Huizhong (陈会忠) of the China Earthquake Administration, who explains the flashes as an electrical transformer exploding, noting that footage from another angle shows the tremors damaging electrical lines in the distance, which begin sparking and showing obvious signs of damage. This damage, however, occurs after the tremors have already started, and does not seem to explain the bright flashes which lit up the sky immediately preceding the tremors.

Still others suggested that radon gas leaking from underground as the earth shifted could have caused the flash.

While the debate rages on between proponents and skeptics of “Earthquake Lights,” a third group of online commenters has already made up their minds: the Weibo fans of prominent Chinese science fiction writer and The Three-Body Problem author Liu Cixin (刘慈欣), wasted no time in heralding the coming of extraterrestrial invaders.

“Looking forward to a scientific explanation,” wrote one user: “As for me, I think it’s the first step in an alien attack.” The user’s post ended with the hashtag, “The Sophon from Three-Body Problem has arrived!”

 
By Luke Jacobus

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©2022 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 & Science

Chinese Student Forced to Undergo “Fake Surgery” and Borrow Money While Lying on the Operating Table

The 17-year-old girl from Shaanxi underwent surgery for no reason at all, without her parents’ consent.

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The story of a 17-year-old girl who was forced to undergo a “fake surgery” at Shaanxi’s Ankang Xing’an Hospital has gone viral on Chinese social media.

One of the netizens to break the story on social media is the Weibo user @QinguanSihai (@秦观四海, 90,000+ followers), who posted about the incident on October 6.

According to the post, the incident occurred on October 4 when a young woman named Lu went online to seek medical attention because she was not feeling well. Since there was an available spot for a medical consultation at the private Ankang Xing’an Hospital, Lu went to see a doctor there.

While she was at the hospital in the city of Ankang, the woman allegedly was directly taken to the operating room and placed on the operating table after a short consultation; not for a medical examination, but for surgery.

The girl initially thought she was undergoing a routine medical check. As the surgery was already underway, the doctor stopped to let Lu sign some papers and then asked her if she could gather the money to pay for her medical procedure. When Lu protested and demanded to get off the surgery table, the doctor warned her that she was losing blood and that interrupting the procedure would be life-threatening.

Lying on the operating table, Lu called some of her friends to gather the money, all the while being pressured by the doctor that the money she had (1200 yuan/$185) was not enough to cover for the costs of surgery – which was still ongoing. The doctor allegedly even told Lu to get more money via the Alipay ‘Huabei’ loaning app.

Lu’s parents, who were contacted by concerned friends, soon showed up at the hospital as the doctor hastily ended the surgery. The parents, who were furious to discover their underage daughter had undergone a medical procedure without their consent, became even more upset when they later found out that Lu had undergone surgery to remove cervical polyps, while Lu’s medical reports showed that she actually had no cervical polyps at all. No reason could be found for their healthy daughter to have been operated on her cervix.

After Lu’s story went viral on social media, local authorities quickly started an investigation into the matter and soon confirmed that the story was real. An initial statement said that Angkang Xing’an Hospital is at fault for performing surgery on a minor without the consent of a guardian or parent. It was also recognized that the hospital has committed serious ethical violations. The hospital, located on 78 Bashan Middle Road (巴山中路), is now temporarily closed, and the doctor in question has since been fired.

Many Chinese netizens are angered about the incident, calling private hospitals such as Ankang Xing’an a “disgrace” to China’s healthcare industry.

This is by no means the first time that malpractices at Chinese local hospitals or clinics trigger online controversy. Various incidents that previously went viral show how some clinics put commercial interests above the health of their patients, and how some doctors think they can get away with abusing and scamming their patients.

In 2016, the death of the 21-year-old cancer patient Wei Zexi (魏则西) sparked online outrage. Wei Zexi, who shared his medical experiences on social media, spent 200,000 RMB to receive contested form of immunotherapy at the Beijing Armed Police Corps No. 2 Hospital (武警二院). The treatment, that was promoted on China’s leading search engine Baidu, was actually completely ineffective and the advertising for it was false.

By now, one hashtag relating to the Ankang incident has received over 270 million views on Weibo (#官方通报无病女生被推上手术台#), with other relating hashtags also circulating on social media (#家属回应无病女学生被迫手术#, #无病女学生被推上手术台涉事医院停业整顿#).

“This can’t be a real hospital, right?!” some worried netizens write, with others expressing the hopes that the medical institution will be severely punished for their wrongdoings.

By Manya Koetse

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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