Woman held in Shenzhen allegedly with blood of pregnant women set for Hong Kong gender tests

Case highlights practice – illegal in the mainland – of many expectant Chinese mothers transporting blood to test in Hong Kong using 'underground' medical services agencies

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 August, 2014, 4:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 5:01pm

Customs officials in Shenzhen detained a woman last Thursday who was allegedly found with 96 blood samples from expectant mothers inside her bag, which were being brought to Hong Kong to test the sex of their child.

The case highlights the common practice – illegal throughout the mainland – of prenatal gender tests being carried out on blood for non-medical purposes here in Hong Kong, after it has been transported from the mainland.

One mainland newspaper has reported that blood samples from more than 10,000 expectant mothers are brought to Hong Kong for testing each month.

Our nurse can even come to your home today and draw only a few drops of the mother’s blood, and you can find out tomorrow whether you are having a boy or a girl
Employee at medical services agency in Shenzhen

Although such tests are against the law on the mainland, it is easy for expectant mainland mothers to find an “underground” medical services agency in Shenzhen that will help them send blood samples to Hong Kong for testing.

“Our nurse can even come to your home today and draw only a few drops of the mother’s blood, and you can find out tomorrow whether you are having a boy or a girl,” a male employee at Hong Kong Hengan, a medical services agency in Shenzhen, told a South China Morning Post reporter today.

The agency said a couple could find out the sex of a seven-week foetus for only 4,000 yuan (about HK$5,030).

“The cost includes drawing blood, sending the sample to Hong Kong’s registered medical centre and testing the sex of the foetus,” the man said.

“You don’t need to worry any private information being leaked. We simply give you a copy of the type-B ultrasonic result.”

This particular test is gaining popularity because it analyses foetal DNA in a pregnant woman’s blood to identify a child’s sex weeks earlier than other alternatives. If a Y chromosome is detected, then the child will be a boy.

Many medical services agencies in Shenzhen, which have helped mainland mothers give birth in Hong Kong for years, are focusing their efforts on early gender detection, since Hong Kong has prevented mothers giving birth in Hong Kong if both parents are from the mainland.

Media reports in China suggest that a gender imbalance on the mainland – where families favour males – will see the mainland become home to 24 million unmarried men in 2020.

The Shenzhen Evening News reported that every month Shenzhen agencies send samples taken from more than 10,000 expectant mothers to Hong Kong’s testing centres.

“The parents are not only from Guangdong, but from across the country, in provinces such as Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Hunan, and cities like Beijing and Shanghai,” said a woman quoted by the newspaper.

Li Bin, director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, reported on July 26 that last year the mainland authorities had taken action against more than 11,000 cases of illegal abortions after prenatal gender tests had been carried out last year.

She called for stricter measures to help crack down on medical centres in Shenzhen using Hong Kong to test the gender of foetuses of expectant mainland mothers.

In Hong Kong it is legal to carry out prenatal gender tests, but the city’s public hospitals are reluctant to perform abortions, while the private sector charges sky-high fees.

By law the Family Planning Association will perform abortions only in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy; there are legal restrictions on terminating long-term pregnancies.

However, as having an abortion can be cheap and quick on the mainland, expectant mainland mothers often return home to have their pregnancies aborted if their Hong Kong gender tests provide a favourable result.

For now – in the absence of mainland laws banning expectant mothers using overseas gender tests – the authorities on the mainland and in Hong Kong appear powerless to stop people getting round the existing restrictions.