BEIJING has required people with serious hereditary diseases whom it considers unfit to have babies to be sterilised or to adopt long-term contraceptive measures before they are allowed to wed. This is one of the clauses in the controversial Law on the Protection of Mothers and Infants adopted last month by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Medical professionals in Hong Kong said there was no parallel in other parts of the world. And one said only totalitarian countries would adopt such a measure. 'I do not know of any country in the world that has such a regulation, and only totalitarian countries will do so,' said Dr Leong Che-hung, also a Legislative Councillor. Dr Edward Loong Ping-leung, senior lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that as far as Hong Kong was concerned, there was no law barring pregnancy whatsoever. 'All people have this right,' Dr Loong said. He added that the definition of 'unfit for pregnancy' was vague. According to clause 10 of the seven-chapter legislation 'doctors would give their professional advice to couples diagnosed to be unfit for pregnancy because of serious hereditary diseases. 'With their consent, and after adopting long-term contraceptive measures or sterilisation, they can get married.' Clause nine stipulates that people afflicted by 'specified' infectious diseases and mental illness should postpone their marriages. According to Chinese law, AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, leprosy and all other infectious diseases considered to affect pregnancy are 'specified' infectious diseases. But Dr Loong said if discovered at an early stage, syphilis was curable even during pregnancy. And as far as hereditary diseases were concerned, Dr Leong pointed out that until now not all of such diseases could be discovered in health check-ups. Neither was it 100 per cent certain that these diseases were passed on to the offspring. 'It is our responsibility to tell our clients the possible outcome but it is always up to them to decide,' Dr Leong said. Eugenics has been practised in China for the past five years and the legislation is apparently aimed at codifying existing practices. The much-delayed bill was first tabled last December, but was then shelved in the face of protest from Western countries. Contentious wording such as 'inferior births' and 'eugenics' has been deleted in the revised and already approved version, which has additional clauses which say that consent from people involved will be sought before abortion, sterilisation or contraception is carried out. Analysts said that the amendments were there to counter criticism but it was doubtful whether Chinese people genuinely had free choice under the revised bill.