Proposal calls for cracking down on surrogacy industry

Ke Jiayun
A long-term mechanism should be created to crack down on the underground surrogacy industry, with regional legislation and grid-style social management based in communities.
Ke Jiayun

A long-term mechanism should be created to crack down on the underground surrogacy industry, with regional legislation and grid-style social management based in communities, according to local political advisers in their proposal to the Two Sessions.

Last week in a post on Weibo, Zheng Shuang, a popular Chinese actress, was accused by her former partner, producer Zhang Heng, of abandoning their two babies born to American surrogate mothers.

Zheng allegedly refused to sign documents required for Zhang to take the babies back to China. As a result, Zhang and the babies remain in the United States.

In a recording Zhang provided, Zheng allegedly expressed frustration that the surrogates, who were seven months pregnant at the time, couldn't have abortions.

The scandal has ignited a public backlash against the actress, who has had a number of disappointments in her career, including being dropped as Prada’s brand ambassador and stripped of titles such “Best Actress in Modern Chinese TV Dramas” in 2016 and “Top 10 Favorite TV Star” in 2014 by The Huading Awards, China’s equivalent to America’s People’s Choice Awards.

Debates over surrogacy have been brought to the forefront among the Chinese public. Many firmly believe that surrogacy transfers a woman's pain during pregnancy and childbirth to another, who is sometimes forced to do so by her family for money.

Surrogacy is illegal in many countries, including China.

However, underground businesses help wealthy people, same-sex couples and others travel to countries where surrogacy is legal, such as some states in the US.

In a proposal filed by eight local Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) members led by Wang Huimin, a researcher with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and member of the CPPCC Shanghai Committee's standing committee, surrogacy would come with a series of thorny issues and violations.

In 2016, local media reported on the city's underground surrogacy industry, which provided body checks and medical procedures to surrogate mothers in their homes.

Last year, media in Guangdong Province disclosed that illegal surrogacy services still existed in Shanghai.

Local government quickly responded with guidelines issued by health authorities. Special teams were set up to crack down on surrogacy, which were highly successful between September and December.

Shanghai isn't the only Chinese city dealing with the surrogacy issue. In a recent Xinhua News Agency investigative report, underground surrogacy industries were found in Chengdu, Guangzhou and Changsha.

Wang and other CPPCC members analyzed the issue and found the pandemic has hindered travel abroad for legal surrogacy services, causing people to turn to local underground agencies.

Working with these agencies often comes with risks, such as egg changing and concealing babies' diseases.

The CPPCC proposal calls for creating a long-term mechanism to crack down on underground surrogacy via different government departments, including health authorities, market watchdogs, police, politics and law commissions, the civil affairs bureau, women’s federation and housing administration. It would establish regional regulations to prohibit surrogacy and tougher penalties on those providing such services.

Moreover, the city's community-based, grid-style social management can help detect clues and prevent surrogacy practices.

The CPPCC members want to enhance awareness among community workers about the dangers of surrogacy, as well as create hotlines, a WeChat public account and chat groups for people to report violations.

Lastly, the proposal calls for more education on sex, reproductive health and related legal issues to discourage people from turning to underground agencies when encountering reproductive difficulties.

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