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This photograph taken on December 15, 2016, shows a nurse holding a baby at an infant care centre in Yongquan, in Chongqing municipality, in southwest China.
Despite being banned on the mainland, the business of surrogacy is thriving, as shown by the fast growth of a Shanghai-based agency reported on by domestic media.
AA69, one of the mainland's first surrogacy businesses, had seen some 10,000 babies born via its services since its launch in 2004, China Newsweek reported on Thursday.
Customers had to pay about a million yuan (HK$1.13 million) for a baby delivered through a surrogate mother, said its founder, Lu Jinfeng, who styles himself as the "godfather" of the country's surrogacy sector.
"The supervision [of the industry] is in a vacuum and there is tacit approval from the authorities," he was quoted as saying.
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"Based on the high infertility rate in China today, it's not likely for the authorities to step up a crackdown against [surrogacy],"
Lu regards the surrogacy business as a "traditional one" that has been industrialised. "It's not so hidden as the public thinks," he was quoted as saying.
At his company, sales staff look for infertile and wealthy couples. Another team hires women, mainly from rural areas, to be surrogate mothers. Doctors are also hired at a million yuan per year to moonlight for AA69 outside of the hospitals where they work full time.
Lu's company has branches in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing and a city in Shandong province. All of them were registered as biological science and technology firms, the magazine reported.