Chinese celebrity Zheng Shuang embroiled in surrogate scandal

Online backlash against ‘Love O2O’ film star highlights the country’s murky world of surrogacy

Chinese celebrity Zheng Shuang has become embroiled in a scandal involving two surrogate children.

The high-profile actress has been accused by her estranged partner and film producer Zhang Heng of abandoning their babies born to American surrogate mothers. The couple reportedly split up before they were born in 2019 and 2020.

“I must take care of and protect two young and innocent lives,” he said on the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo earlier this week.

Zhang confirmed that he had been stranded in the United States for more than a year to take care of the children.

The controversy erupted after he revealed that the couple had turned to surrogate women to give birth to two babies in the US. He also released voice recordings of a person, allegedly Zheng, “lamenting that” they “could not be aborted,” Reuters reported.

The 29-year-old star of romantic comedy-drama Love O2O and the series Everybody Stand By has declined to comment on “whether any of the accusations are true,” the news agency pointed out.

The facts:

  • Surrogacy is illegal in China. But the parents who conceive via surrogacy are rarely punished.
  • Wealthy couples tend to travel abroad to have surrogate children in countries such as the United States.
  • Actress Zheng has quickly become the target of public criticism.
  • Weibo users have called her “irresponsible” and “vicious.”
  • The issue became the top trending item on Weibo in just 72 hours with 600 million views and more than 100,000 comments.
  • Zheng has been dumped by fashion label Prada as the company’s brand ambassador in China.

What was said: “It’s a very sad and private matter for me … If I have to respond publicly to all unauthenticated information, this is my most sincere answer,” she told her 11 million fans on Weibo, adding that she had not violated laws in China or the US. 

Reaction to the news: Prada’s decision to sever ties with Zheng shows the power of social media in the world’s second-largest economy. “The hit to Prada’s image is huge. Their decision to stop working with Zheng is an effort to cut their losses and it’s the right move,” Huang Shengming, of the Communication University of China in Beijing, told Reuters.

China Factor comment: This controversial case has brought into sharp focus, the country’s surrogacy legislation. Officially banned, it appears to be tolerated for rich couples. Clearer guidelines need to be rolled out and enforced by Beijing.