Foreign and Chinese scientists are for the first time to discuss the mainland's controversial law against congenitally disabled people having children. The law is being blamed in part for the low turnout to the International Congress of Genetics, which opened in the capital yesterday with 1,200 delegates. British, US, Dutch and Argentinian genetics societies have refused to pay for representatives to attend. And the Asian economic crisis has meant fewer delegates from the region have been able to attend. About 2,000 attended the last event in Britain in 1993, and more than 3,000 went to Toronto 10 years ago. The controversial law - described as a eugenics law by critics - caused a global outcry when introduced in 1995. It states that couples with 'certain genetic diseases of a serious nature' can only marry if they agree to long-term contraception or sterilisation. If such couples are found to have already married, doctors shall offer 'advice' on which the couple shall act. That advice can include abortion. A circular to members from the organising body, the International Genetics Federation (IGF), says the law is 'based on unsound genetics' and violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. IGF president Professor Derek Smith, of Britain's University of Birmingham, said that only by holding the congress in China could the law be discussed. A symposium tomorrow on the implications of genetic research will include a talk by Qiu Renzong of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on 'cultural and ethical dimensions of the genetic practices in China'. Congress secretary-general Chen Shouyi said there was 'some misunderstanding' among foreign geneticists about the law. 'Doctors only give some suggestions. It's the parents' own choice,' she said.