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Tiantan was born in December, four years after his parents died in an accident.
His case is unprecedented in China and resulted in a long and complex legal battle for the four grandparents involved.
It all started when Shen Jie and Liu Xi, who had been married for two years, decided to freeze several embryos to undergo an in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure.
But days before Liu was subjected to the transplant , in 2013, the couple died in an accident.
The years that followed meant numerous battles in court for the parents of Shen and Liu who demanded the rights of the frozen embryos.
Finally the four grandparents won custody. But since gestation by subrogation is illegal in China, the grandparents had to travel to Laos to look for a surrogate mother.
And in December 2017 the baby of Shen and Liu was born, a boy in a hospital in Guangzhou.
According to the Beijing News , which first reported on the case this week, when the couple’s accident occurred, the embryos were stored in a hospital in Nanjing, frozen at -196 degrees in a tank of liquid nitrogen.
In China, there were no precedents about who should inherit the frozen embryos of a couple.
When the grandparents got custody of the embryos they thought they had won the battle. But soon after the problem arose.
The embryos could only leave the hospital in Nanjing if they had proof that another hospital would store them.
But given the legal uncertainty surrounding embryos and ovules that are not transplanted, the grandparents had difficulty finding another medical institution in China willing to get involved.
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In addition, since surrogate pregnancy is illegal in the country, the only realistic option was to look for an alternative beyond borders.
Proof of paternity and nationality
The grandparents sought the services of a surrogate gestation agency and traveled to Laos, where this practice is allowed.
But since no airline was willing to accept the container the size of a thermos filled with liquid nitrogen that carried the embryos, they had to travel by car.
In Laos, one of the embryos was implanted in the uterus of the surrogate mother and in December 2017 the baby was born.
The problems, however, were not over. Tiantian was not born in Laos but in China, but the surrogate mother had traveled there with a tourist visa.
Since the baby had no parents to prove paternity, the four grandparents had to undergo DNA tests to establish that Tian Tian was actually his grandson and that his parents had been Chinese citizens.
“Tian Tian has the eyes of my daughter but in general, she looks more like her father,” Liu’s mother, Hu Xinxian, told the Beijing News.