Chinese newborns left behind abroad

ChinaWhen Zeng Yaqin’s daughter, born in Kazakhstan by another pregnant woman, was born in Kazakhstan, she was in Guangzhou and Covid-19 was raging around the world.

Zeng, 27, and her husband paid 480,000 yuan (1.7 billion dong) to hire a Kazakh woman to get pregnant because she had a uterus problem. Her baby was born in May, when borders closed, Zeng had no way to see her. The surrogacy agency moved her baby to a mansion in the suburbs of Almaty with nine other Chinese babies, and hired local nannies to take care of them.

By the time of 6 months, the baby is still stuck in a foreign country. Zeng stress all the time, she suffered from hair loss, insomnia. “I couldn’t focus on anything but read the pandemic news. But what I read only made me sadder,” she said.

On some of the rare re-connections between China and another country, many of the passengers were infants. Image: Ryan Lane / Sixthtone.

In 2001, the Chinese government banned surrogacy, and since then this service has sprung up, especially in Eastern Europe and America to accommodate the needs of Chinese couples. There are no exact statistics on how many “clients” are Chinese, but the potential is huge, because one in eight couples in the world’s most populous country are infertile.

This service has been in chaos this year. The borders of the closed states divided families and turned Russian orphanages into “surrogacy camps”. Although some countries have temporarily loosened border restrictions in recent months, hundreds and possibly thousands of Chinese babies are still floating abroad.

WeChat and QQ formed many groups of young pregnant surrogate parents, where they updated the latest information on visas, flight information, the number of people infected with Covid-19. Some were reunited with their children, some were not.

For Zeng, life for the past six months was on the brink. As soon as her daughter was born, she heard that the Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan announced that it was negotiating a resumption of the flight. But since then there has been no flight. Recently, Kazakhstan’s consulate in Shanghai also confirmed that there are no plans to restart flights between the two countries this year.

Zeng and her husband never thought about this situation when they started researching surrogacy services in 2017. They considered looking for a surrogate in the US, Russia, Ukraine and Georgia, and eventually chose Kazakhstan. Last July they flew to Almaty to do in vitro fertilization. “Since the fetus is stable, I want to meet more and more. It was considered the happiest year in my life, but it turned out extremely sad,” she said.

Right now, Zeng’s only connection with her daughter is through videos and photos of the child she receives every day. The company has arranged 5 nannies to take care of 10 babies. The cost of care is 6,000 yuan per month (21 million dong). She didn’t care about the money, all she thought was “being able to fly to Almaty as soon as possible, even if she was stuck there”.

A nurse takes care of a newborn baby at a hospital in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, May 2020. Photo: Ryan Lane / Sixthtone.

A nurse taking care of a newborn baby at a hospital in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, May 2020. Photo: Ryan Lane / Sixthtone.

Some other parents are luckier. Wen Xiaoqi, 32 years old from southern China, is preparing to fly to Ukraine. Her daughter was born in Kiev in late October. The Ukrainian government allows Chinese citizens to visit for up to 30 days, from August 1. Many families have taken advantage of these policy changes. A Fujian province-based company (which has helped about 300 couples find a birthplace in Ukraine each year) said dozens of their clients have flown to the Eastern European country since July.

Wen hopes she can fly in December. “What worries my family is the baby’s passport registration service at the Chinese embassy in Ukraine. The earliest reservations are available at the end of December” Wen said.

Currently, she hires a nanny to take care of her child in the hospital, and costs about 1.6 million dong a day. Experience from other parents tells Wen that if she doesn’t arrive in Ukraine early, her baby will be transferred to a postpartum care center, which costs about 15,000 yuan a month (52 million dong).

“For me, cost is not a big concern now – I just can’t wait to see them. Other parents who have returned from Ukraine say there are many Chinese babies on their flight. “, Wen added.

But now the epidemic situation in Ukraine is straining again, with thousands of cases per day. “I can’t sleep thinking about my baby there. Only people like us, whose kids are stuck overseas, dare to board international flights right now. We’re risking our health. I can meet you, “she added.

Liu Xian, 36, from Shanxi province, is also waiting for customs clearance to go abroad. Her baby was born in Moscow in June. The surrogacy agency arranged for the baby to be kept in an apartment there for 20,000 yuan a month (70 million dong).

Russia and China have reopened the flight since July. “In our chat group with nearly 400 people, at least 30 members said their children are still in Russia. Some are waiting for visas and others. waiting for plane tickets, “she said.

Mr. Leng, director of a surrogacy company in Moscow, said dozens of his Chinese customers have been coming to Russia over the past few months to pick up their babies. Despite the upheaval, Leng insists his company is still accepting new Chinese customers. However, their customers are turning to the domestic black market amid a pandemic.

A Ukrainian pregnancy consultant said he will only work with more than 20 Chinese couples by 2020, while there are normally 300 guests a year. The price of surrogacy in Georgia is 350,000 yuan (1.2 billion dong), 480,000 yuan in Kazakhstan (1.7 billion dong), while in China it’s 550,000 yuan (nearly 2 billion dong).

Although surrogacy is illegal in China, many people do, says Qiu, a Chinese underground service worker. If exposed, companies and hospitals are fined heavily, the doctor’s license will be revoked. Particularly, the employer is rarely fined. Currently the need for surrogacy is still very strong. “On average, each year my company has 150 to 160 babies born through surrogacy in the country. In foreign countries, it is difficult to record,” he said.

Some people can make a series of round-trip flights between countries, but Chinese parents don’t because they fear the danger of both mother and child. They are just praying that the vaccine will be successful soon and that their baby is healthy. “We all agreed not to risk the health of our children because of the lack of direct flights. All we can do now is wait,” Zeng said.

Bao Nhien (According to the Sixthtone)


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