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Mothers-to-be go gender-shopping in Hong Kong

By Yan Shuang  (Global Times)

14:58, August 28, 2012

Simply typing "fetus sex identification" into Chinese search engines results in hundreds of results advertising these services, with most of the agencies advertised operating out of Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, near the Hong Kong border.

Sex-selective abortions are illegal on the Chinese mainland, largely due to long-standing preferences for baby boys. To prevent these abortions, it's also illegal to use technology to detect the sex of a fetus.

However, mothers-to-be can pay between 5,500 to 5,800 yuan ($865 to $912) then agencies will either take them to see Hong Kong doctors or send their blood to Hong Kong testing centers, which then identify the sex of the fetus.

"Taking blood is perfectly safe and we guarantee a 98 percent accuracy rate for sex identification," said a consultant surnamed Wu, with the Shenzhen Office of the Hong Kong Qixin Medical agency.

Being tested during the seventh week of pregnancy is 1,000 yuan more than the price at eight weeks, Wu said, adding that her agency does not send blood from Shenzhen as there are customs restrictions when transferring blood from the mainland to the special administrative region.

An employee with the Shenzhen-based told the Global Times they can send verified doctors to take blood samples at both locations, and send the samples to a blood test center in Hong Kong.

"But we don't sign agreements with customers guaranteeing accuracy," said the employee, surnamed Li. The center has operated for years and has proven to be very reliable, with millions of tests turning out to be accurate, she said.

Ultrasounds are legal on the Chinese mainland; however, doctors are not permitted to use them to service parents wanting to know the sex of their baby.

Mothers wanting to determine the sex of their baby have to be at least seven weeks pregnant and bring the results of an ultrasound before providing blood samples, according to most of the agencies, and the result is usually ready within three to five days.

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