Police and various regulators in Beijing cracked down on a medical group claiming to be from Hong Kong yesterday that had grown almost 300 human embryos a year in test tubes for surrogate mothers without approval from authorities, the Beijing Health Bureau confirmed online.
An official investigation into the illegal clinic was triggered when authorities received accounts from undercover reporters at China Central Television, which aired its report yesterday after the joint raid was conducted that morning by police and health, food and drug regulators.
The illegal clinic, located in downtown Beijing but calling itself the "Hong Kong Fuchen Group", had been operating without a licence for six years, providing reproductive assistance to couples, and for the last four years they had grown about 300 embryos annually, according to Song Hongbo , a salesman for the group who was quoted by investigative reporters posing as an interested couple.
It was unclear if the group had any real ties to Hong Kong. "We are registered as a hospital, but we do not have any qualifications to conduct this assisted reproductive technique," Song said. The downtown office served mainly to sign people up for the service, which was then conducted at a separate and undisclosed clinic.
While assisted reproductive techniques are allowed to be carried out only in approved hospitals, the use of in-vitro fertilisation technology to implant embryos into surrogate mothers is banned in China.
The company had been openly recruiting egg donors and surrogate mothers online, with a promise payment of hundreds of thousands of yuan.
When the undercover reporters asked why the group had "Hong Kong" in the name, despite the group's president reportedly being from Suihua , Heilongjiang province, Song told them: "There are a lot of fake things in this business - even the names."
The statement by the Beijing Health Bureau, posted on its official Sina microblog, said the group was actually called the Beijing Zhuoyue Medical Beauty Clinic, and it was licensed to conduct cosmetic treatments, but it stealthily conducted in-vitro fertilisation and surrogacy services.
A list of surrogate mothers and payment records were also found in the clinic.
The whole process reportedly cost 1 million yuan (HK$1.24 million), or 1.2 million if a couple insisted on having a boy.
Surrogate mothers would receive 170,000 to 230,000 yuan.