Students turn to sperm donation as a means to raise funds
Perhaps inspired by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's 1980s mantra that 'to get rich is glorious', some Guangdong university students have turned to a new method for making money. But members of the public have reacted with shock to newspaper reports that sperm donation, a virtual taboo among mainland men just a few years ago, is now regarded by some as a viable way to earn some cash.
More than 2,000 students from Guangzhou universities made deposits at the provincial sperm bank last year after it raised the 'subsidy' for qualified donors to 3,000 yuan (HK$3,556). The resulting frenzy saw students from South China University of Technology use up their donation quota a year early.
Far from being financially strapped and short of money to pay their tuition and living expenses, some undergraduates have been spending their sperm bank subsidies on new iPads or the latest mobile phones.
'I don't think there's anything wrong with it,' a 20-year-old law student said. 'It's the donors' rights to decide how to use the subsidy, and the public has no right to question their intention.'
The young man from the prosperous Guangdong city of Chaozhou said many of his classmates changed mobile phones nearly every semester, and most of their gadgets cost more than 2,000 yuan.
The materialism unleashed by Deng's economic reform and opening up was not restrained by any religious or social ethics, and has become amplified as it has passed down to the youth of today.
Few people were surprised when some female university students began viewing sex as a profitable business opportunity and voluntarily became prostitutes or mistresses so they could buy things they could not otherwise afford.
An article that was published in the Los Angeles Times in October said most university students who chose to become mistresses were financially comfortable. But a pimp told the newspaper that 'they see their classmates carrying Louis Vuitton or Gucci bags, and they're jealous. These girls want to have better lives'.
The report said the sale of sex had become a common phenomenon and some universities had to introduce rules banning students from working as escorts or mistresses.
'In China, everybody seems to be selling something these days,' the LA Times concluded, saying that sex was being treated as a tradeable commodity and a shortcut to a better life by an increasing number of students.
Tang Lixin, director of Guangdong's sperm bank, said donation was a kind of charitable act to help the roughly 10 per cent of the province's couples who had been diagnosed with fertility problems. But charity alone does not explain why sperm donation has become so popular among university students.
According to the sperm bank, more than 95 per cent of its donors are university students, with some pursuing postgraduate or doctoral degrees.
Donors need to visit the bank 10 times to contribute sperm and take blood tests six months later to ensure they had not been infected with HIV. Identified by his fingerprints, a donor can only donate once in his lifetime, and the sperm he donates is provided to no more than five women.
Even though Chen Zhenwen, a researcher from the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said sperm donation should not be regarded as easy money because it was a time-and-effort-consuming task, the pay is still pretty good when you think that the average monthly income of the country's newly graduated students is just 1,500 yuan.
It is obviously the donors' right to decide how to use the money they receive, and their contribution definitely helps infertile couples who desire a child, but where will such materialism end?
Many Chinese internet users have been pondering whether there would be any volunteers like the 'Fukushima 50' if the mainland was struck by the same kind of nuclear disaster that has hit Japan. Several hundred anonymous Japanese technicians are risking their lives while working in shifts of 50 at a time to help prevent a major meltdown inside the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The Japanese people's civil and public-spirited response to this month's massive earthquake and resulting tsunami and nuclear crisis have impressed mainlanders, helping to change attitudes towards the East Asian neighbours. To become an admirable nation, there should always be things that are not for sale.