The Dark Sides of the Underground Surrogacy Markets in China

  • Underground surrogacy market in China receives more clients due to Covid-19.
  • Agencies can arrange "American babies" for future immigration of the family.
  • Agencies bribe hospitals for some legal procedures.

Due to the Covid-19, it has become harder to seek certain services in other countries, which forces people to turn to their domestic markets. On the one hand, according to a report by China Population Association, one in every six Chinese couples have fertility issues. On the other hand, in China, surrogacy is illegal.

Surrogacy ads can often be found on utility poles.

In a society where ideas like “family tree shall never die” and “only sons can carry on the family name” are still prevalent, it’s only makes sense that lots of Chinese families seek help in other countries to fulfill their dreams of having a complete family and life. Grounded at home, these couples start to pay attention to the unpromising advertising posters on utility poles.

Journalists from The Paper secretly interviewed several surrogacy agencies in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. They have published a series of articles that have attracted national attention. The illegal status of surrogacy in China has only made the reality more disturbing.

Agencies presenting luanmei information.

An agent, Xue Wei, explains that his company offers a $85,000 and a $128,000 package. The latter one can guarantee a baby in two years, while the cheaper one requires extra money if the first try fails. The clients can choose if they want a baby boy or girl. Apparently, boys are more expensive and more demanded. They can also decide if they want twins.

Other agencies advertise that they can arrange an “American baby,” which means that the parents can become United States citizens when the baby turns 21.

In this business there are two types of female workers: “luanmei”, women that provide their eggs, and “daima”, women that provide their uterus. Based on the education level of luanmei, the price can vary greatly. Daima can earn over $30,000 after delivering the baby, which is hard to say no to for women from villages. One agency even promises that if the daima dies during the process, it can be solved by money. One other agency claims that the owner is a deputy of the National People’s Congress.

Since the business is illegal in China, many agencies face being closed and fined once in a while. However, current regulations only give a fine of less than $4,000. Encouraged by the huge profits, these same agencies will open up new centers right after one is closed.

Agencies can create a new website when the old ones are closed.

Although the agencies guarantee that the babies are in perfect condition, sometimes accidents happen. Xue remembers that over the last year, five babies have had congenital diseases. The clients obviously do not accept these babies, who can only be “dealt with” by the agencies.

In some cases, clients find out that the babies are not related to them at all. During the process, the agencies might have swapped others’ sperm or egg just to have a baby.

Since the new universal two-child policy, demand has increased. Experts suggest the government should gradually allow this type of business in order to better regulate the market, while traditional social ethics are still against it. It will be a tough decision for the Chinese government.

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