Film on surrogacy sparks controversy on Chinese social media
Published: Jan 25, 2021 05:42 PM

A surrogate mother looks at baby posters in Shanghai. Photo: IC

 A film project that was recently approved for filming by the Chinese film authority has sparked yet another round of discussion about the controversial subject of surrogacy, which is illegal in China, on Chinese social media following the recent scandal involving Chinese actress Zheng Shuang. 

According to the film's introduction, Feichang Yunshi tells the story of a mother who travels to a foreign country after her daughter dies there. Upon arrival she finds that her daughter left behind a frozen egg. The mother tries to find a way to turn the egg into a child, while also seeking out the truth behind her daughter's death. In the process, she begins to learn more about her daughter. 

The hashtag "Feichang Yunshi has been approved" earned 220 million views on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo as of Monday afternoon.

Many Chinese netizens suspected that the film's screenwriter Ning Hao's intention behind announcing the film's approval was to piggyback on the surrogacy scandal involving Zheng to promote his film. However, this may have backfired as some netizens have taken to social media to call for a boycott of the film.

"Zheng Shuang's issue has not been solved thoroughly, yet various surrogacy-related film and television projects are taking the opportunity to promote their products… I think we should boycott the film," one netizen commented on Sina Weibo.

Lu Di, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Peking University, told the Global Times on Monday that he personally does not think the film will do well at the box office, but might cause some controversy on social media. 

Some netizens said that they were fine with the subject of the film so long as it is critical of surrogacy.

"I hope the film crew will learn a lesson from Chen Kaige's controversy film Baby and will not make the same mistake," another netizen said. 

Chen, a well-known Chinese film director and Palme d'Or winner, once ignited discussion about surrogacy after debuting a short film on the subject on Chinese variety show Everybody Stand in December 2020. The film sparked debate on social media as some felt it didn't go far enough to depict the consequences of surrogacy in China. 

Chinese media reported that the China Film Administration approved the film back in September 2020, which was far earlier than the scandal. According to reports, that same month Ning revealed in an interview that his next film would be about surrogacy. 

"I think the matter of surrogacy is a new issue, and the issue has caused us to rethink the subject from the aspects of religion, ethics and the legal system," said Ning.

Wang Sixin, a media law professor at the Communication University of China, told the Global Times on Monday that many factors need to be considered when filming such a subject and that it was especially important to avoid positively advocating surrogacy.

He emphasized that "the production team filming this sensitive topic should not cross the limits of the law nor social morality."