Officers in Hong Kong stop a middle-aged woman because of the strange way she was walking around. When they searched her they found vials of blood stashed in her bra, each vial was labeled with a pregnant woman’s name. Lots of other people trying to cross the border with blood samples on their person have been caught, including children. More recently, in February 2019, a 12-year-old girl was stopped at Luohu port, another entry point into Hong Kong, with 142 blood samples hidden in her backpack. China's Population and Family Planning Law banned gender testing in 2002, to prevent a widening of the country's gender imbalance. In this country of 1.4 billion people, men outnumbered women by 32.7 million at the end of 2017, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Under China's one-child policy, which limited parents to one child sex-selective abortions became widespread in the hope of securing a son. (Many families still attach importance to the idea of having a son to carry the family’s name.) Online agents also posted articles highlighting the benefits of having sons, for example, mentioning that a woman was given 100,000 yuan from her father-in-law after tests confirmed her baby was a boy.
From 1970 to 2017, this prevented 12 million girls from being born, according to a study published in May by National University of Singapore researchers. The policy against having multiple children was partially scrapped in 2015, but many parents still forgo having more than one child because of the cost involved. To get around the local ban on sex testing, some couples started sending blood samples across the border, into Hong Kong. This is illegal, with China's National Health and Family Planning Commission issuing a notice in 2017 banning the export of human blood. Some Chinese women are desperate to find out whether their child will be a boy or a girl so they turn to the intermediates who offer to transport the samples across the border into Hong Kong. Even though the law prevents sex testing, women, and men, will go out of their way, even if it means breaking the law.
Hong Kong only requires an import permit for blood samples suspected to contain an infectious agent. The Post identified 111 accounts on China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo set up since 2015 to offer Y chromosome DNA testing services in Hong Kong. Males typically have X and Y sex chromosomes, while females have two X chromosomes. An ultrasound test can only identify the sex of a fetus about five months into gestation. Among the agent accounts found online, 52 were set up in 2016, increasing from 29 in 2017. According to some of the online advertisements, the tests, priced from 3,000 yuan ($445) to 4,000 yuan ($520), have a high accuracy rate ranging from 99.4% to 99.99% for women five to seven weeks into their pregnancy. Even though the export of human blood in China is illigal, Hong Kong allows the importation of blood samples, provided they are not suspected of containing infectious agents and as long as a permit is secured, a spokeswoman from the city's Department of Health told CNN via email. Since 2015, the department has referred three cases involving laboratories conducting prenatal blood testing to the board for investigation, but all were dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
Story by Lily Severance