BRITISH geneticists yesterday attacked China's new law aimed at preventing defects and controlling numbers of disabled children. With an obvious eye to Nazi attempts to control Germany's breeding stock, they claimed the law on Maternal and Infant Health Care, which came into effect last week, 'is an undisguised embodiment of eugenic principles, the implementation of which has had such a disastrous history in the West'. In a letter to The Times, six leading members of the Clinical Genetics Society headed by Professor John Burn of Newcastle University say they recognise the great success of the Chinese people in meeting health care challenges 'but a balance is needed between cultural autonomy and fundamental human rights'. Under Articles 10 and 16 of the new law, couples associated with genetic diseases may only marry if they agree to be sterilised or use contraception permanently or undergo an abortion if a previous child is abnormal. Professor Burn stressed the difficulties even in reaching a correct diagnosis in the area and with his colleagues urged the National People's Congress to re-examine the articles to give parents a choice. 'There are many positive aspects to the law and I suspect the people who have drafted it have done so with good will, but at least two articles in it wouldn't pass muster this side of the world,' he said. China's Health Minister Chen Minzhang has said the law is designed to target genetic diseases that may 'totally or partially prevent the victim from living independently'. It is understood this may include common, treatable conditions such as a harelip or cleft palate. Geneticists say it is impossible to prevent defects. Many arise spontaneously and everybody carries hidden genetic defects.