Nearly three decades after his masterful movie Farewell My Concubine was briefly banned from Chinese cinemas, director Chen Kaige has found himself at the center of a new controversy in the country. His short film 10 Months With You (宝贝儿) has been blasted by some official organs for supposedly presenting surrogacy in China in a positive light.
The short film was made as part of the finale of hit TV show Actors Take Your Places at the weekend. While the initial headlines were made by “little fresh meat” star Xiao Zhan’s appearance on the show, Chen’s movie has since attracted controversy with some critics warning the content could mislead the public over the legality of surrogacy.
10 Months With You — the Chinese name of which is more readily translated as Baby — tells the story of a woman turning to surrogacy after losing her son, before being drawn into a complex drama with the surrogate mother and the surrogate mother’s boyfriend. According to reviews online, although there are a couple of lines in the film and a warning sentence at the end indicating that “surrogacy is illegal,” the short generally reaches a happy ending, something which has triggered heated online discussions.
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Shortly after the release of the final episode of Actors Take Your Places this past weekend, official organ People’s Court Daily was moved to post a stronlgy-worded message on social media site Weibo. “Don’t defy the law. #Conducting surrogacy techniques could be a crime#,” the post reads. “We remind you: our country has specified a ban on surrogacy. According to [official guidelines] Management Measures of Human Auxiliary Reproduction Technology, medical institutions and medical workers shall not conduct any kind of surrogacy techniques.”
The Weibo post has attracted over 386,000 likes, while two hashtags tied to the controversy — #Chen Kaige Baby surrogacy# and #Conducting surrogacy techniques could be a crime# — have already garnered over 500 million and 410 million views respectively. The comments have been overwhelmingly negative about the film and its apparent messaging.
“I feel this film is advocating for surrogacy, can the light final lines [explaining that surrogacy is illegal] at the end of the movie solve the surrogacy-advocating nature of the film?” reads the most upvoted response to People’s Court Daily’s post.
“Oppose glorifying surrogacy, [the show should be] pulled,” reads another comment under a related post.
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Surrogacy is prohibited in China. However, according to reports from state media outlet The Paper, among the 37 court verdicts related to surrogacy available to the public up to June 2020, 21 of them cite the reason for surrogacy as being infertility. In 2017, the infertility rate of females in China was 2705.66 per 100,000, based on statistics from Global Burden of Disease Study 2017.
At the same time, a series of recent pronouncements and initiatives from the authorities — such as the end of the notorious “One Child Policy” — has been aimed at encouraging people in China to have more babies. But even for those who want to be parents, it seems as though turning to a surrogate will not be a legal option in the country anytime soon.
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