A new birth tourism agency with ties to China is operating among the private terminals at Vancouver International Airport’s south side, theBreaker.news has learned.
BaoBaoLaiLa Inc., which means “baby is coming” in Mandarin, advertises a range of services, from online booking for what it calls “confinement centres” (also known as baby houses or birth hotels) to visa services.
The July 2019-incorporated company bills itself as the “first cross-border, mother-to-child maternity service platform in North America,” according to an English translation of its Chinese website BaoBaoLaiLa.net.
“We have set up companies and established operating teams in China, the United States and Canada,” according to BaoBaoLaila.net. “At present, hundreds of North American mother-to-child and maternity service agencies have signed contracts to enter the platform. It is our aim to go to intermediaries, save troubles and help mothers find the best mother and baby maternity services. Transparent, safe, professional and dedicated, we are the best cross-border mother and baby maternity service platform.”
There is no law specifically against birth tourism in Canada. Unlike the United Kingdom, Australia and France, a baby born in Canada receives automatic citizenship and becomes eligible for social, health and education services later in life. Expectant mothers from China have reportedly paid $30,000 to $70,000 to travel to Richmond and give birth at Richmond Hospital.
For the year ended March 31, 2019, Richmond Hospital counted 458 babies born to non-resident parents, just over 23% of all births.
BaoBaoLaila was registered federally last July by directors Guozheng Liu of Richmond and Yanan Song of Vancouver. Liu is the only director of Sincubator Inc., which was incorporated in 2013 as SVisa Canada Inc. and rebranded in March 2019 to Sincubator. Guo is also associated with Tangguo Holiday Inc.
theBreaker.news wanted to know more about the company and whether it was concerned about a Richmond city council motion aimed at curbing the booming birth tourism industry. A man who answered the local BaoBaoLaiLa phone number on the morning of Feb. 8 gave his name as “Tony” and said Liu was “not interested in talking to reporters.”
“I don’t think he’s interested to answer your phone [call],” Tony said.
Asked about his connection to BaoBaoLaiLa and Sincubator, Tony said: “It doesn’t matter, I don’t want to let you know any information about this as well.”
Coincidentally, the BaoBaoLaiLa.com website went offline in the afternoon Feb. 8, but the BaoBaoLaiLa.net website remained accessible on Feb. 10.
Sincubator is co-located, beside a private jet terminal at 4380 Agar Drive, with Richway Group, a digital advertising agency that specializes in creating campaigns for Chinese platforms WeChat and Baidu.
Liu was quoted in the Richmond News in April of 2019 saying that Sincubator would offer shared office space, legal and tax services to help immigrant businesses set-up shop in Canada and for Canadians to do business in China. Liu told the newspaper that he moved to Montreal in 2013 from China.
He did not reply to email from theBreaker.news. When reached by phone on Feb. 10, he said he would only accept questions in Mandarin and hung up.
Richmond city council is scheduled to debate its anti-birth tourism motion at its Feb. 10 meeting.
Coun. Carol Day proposed that city council write letters to Ottawa seeking changes to immigration laws to end automatic Canadian citizenship for babies born to foreign parents. Day also wants city hall to communicate with federal officials, since hospitals are a provincial responsibility, and to review city residential rental and business bylaws to find ways that it can crack down on birth tourism.
“The demand for birthing services has created an unregulated shadow industry that includes food, medical, transportation services, counselling, etc.,” according to Day. “Richmond Hospital has over $2 million in unpaid bills since 2017. There are times that people living Richmond are unable to get the services they need at Richmond Hospital; and the current immigration policy is unfair to the citizens of Canada and immigrants who legally navigate the existing system.”
Richmond activist Kerry Starchuk, who unsuccessfully ran for city council in 2018, has led two MP-sponsored e-petitions to the House of Commons. Her latest petition garnered support from 10,882 people and the Trudeau Liberal government responded in October 2018 to say that it would undertake further research.
In Southern California, the U.S. Department of Justice charged 19 people involved in that region’s Chinese birth tourism industry in early 2019. Charges included visa and immigration fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft. Clients paid between $40,000 and $100,000 for services and the companies coached clients to lie to customs officers.
Last month, the Trump administration gave U.S. consular officials more power to deny visa applications from those whose primary objective is to give birth in the U.S. for the sake of obtaining citizenship for their child.
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