Chinese actress Zheng Shuang’s surrogacy scandal rocks social media, prompting fresh debate over China’s ban of the practice

21-Jan-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A scandal involving a high-profile celebrity and two surrogate children has rocked Chinese social media, setting off heated debate over whether there should be an outright ban of surrogacy in China.

At the centre of the controversy is popular actress Zheng Shuang, who has been accused by her former partner, producer Zhang Heng, of abandoning their two children born to US-based surrogate mothers after the couple’s relationship ended before the children were born.

Zhang said on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, on Monday that he has been stranded in the US for over a year because he and his family “must take care of and protect two young and innocent lives”.

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A friend of Zhang’s provided documents to Chinese platform NetEase Entertainment which showed the birth of a boy on December 19, 2019 and a girl on January 4, 2020, both born in the US and alleged to be children of Zheng and Zhang.

The friend also provided a voice recording in which Zheng, Zhang and their parents allegedly discussed what to do with then-unborn children, as the two had broken up.

Zheng’s father suggested that they abandon the children at the hospital, while Zhang’s father said it would be illegal. Zheng’s family then suggested giving the children up “for adoption”, while Zheng expressed annoyance that they could not be aborted as they had been in the womb for seven months.

Zheng responded to the claims on Tuesday afternoon, saying “it’s a very sad and private matter for me”. She accused Zhang of trying to extort her and said her lawyers were negotiating with Zhang’s family to protect her rights.

Zheng, who has 11 million fans on Weibo, became an overnight sensation after appearing in the 2009 romance TV series Meteor Shower and its sequel in 2010. In 2016, she was named one of the four most popular Chinese actresses born in the 1990s by Southern Metropolis Entertainment Weekly.

She has repeatedly faced controversies over her acting and her interactions with others, as well as questioned over her emotional state, but has an enormous and loyal fan base.

The scandal has revived discussions on whether there should be a clear ban on surrogacy in China, as critics believe the practice exploits the rights of women, and treats women’s bodies as if they are commercial products. There isn’t a surrogacy ban in legal codes in the country, but multiple government administrations do not allow the practice, according to Gao Mingyue, a Shanghai-based lawyer.

With the legal loopholes, and market need, “a surrogacy commercial chain has grown”, with businesses thriving in this grey area, Gao said. Agents look for surrogates overseas and organise visas for their clients, while others recruit egg donors as well as provide medical equipment needed for surrogacy and births conducted inside the country.

This is a country where trafficking women and children is still happening. If we open up surrogacy, with the tremendous profit and market [potential], the outcome will be disastrous

Chinese feminist blogger Shaoxi

News related to surrogacy surfaces from time to time in the country, usually prompting a sharp backlash. Shanghai-based news portal The Paper reported last week that a surrogate in China, Wu Chuanchuan, was paid by a couple to have a child for 200,000 yuan (US$31,000). When she was three months pregnant, she found that she had syphilis, and the couple decided to “cancel the deal”.

Wu had the child regardless, but now faces difficulties getting the unwanted child registered.

In the US, surrogacy is legal in some states under a system where surrogates need to go through full health and legal check-ups.

There are still many who believe that if surrogacy is illegal in China then it’s fine to travel somewhere where it’s legal, a feminist blogger in China who goes by her pen name Shaoxi said, but she’s happy to see the attitude shifting.

“This is a country where trafficking women and children is still happening,” she said. “If we open up surrogacy, with the tremendous profit and market [potential], the outcome will be disastrous.”


Category: China

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