China firmly opposes human cloning

Chinese delegate Chen Xu on Tuesday said the Chinese government supports the formulation of an early convention banning human cloning.

In a speech at a general debate held by the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on an International Convention Against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings, Chen said that there was an imperative need to work out legal rules, and he expressed his appreciation for the efforts made by and in that regard.

Chen said the Chinese government firmly opposes human cloning and also rejects any experiment in human cloning, as it would threaten human dignity.

Meanwhile, he said, a distinction should be made between therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Embryonic stem-cell research for the purpose of treating and preventing disease should be encouraged, but bioethics and universal norms should guide that process so that it develops in an orderly fashion and is strictly supervised, Chen added.

Legal and ethical concerns

Chen also said that the Chinese government and the scientific community are following the progress of cloning technology and staying informed of the ethical concerns.

He said domestic legislation in various countries treats therapeutic cloning differently, and whatever their choices in that regard, domestic policies should be respected, as should the various philosophical, cultural and religious circumstances that have led to the legislation.

He also said that while preparing the convention, the Ad Hoc Committee should listen carefully to the overall appraisals of scientists and bioethicists on the positive impact of cloning technology on mankind, in order to make an informed decision.

The U.N. Ad Hoc Committee, established by the General Assembly last December, met this morning to hold a general debate on the ethics and science of human cloning. The first-ever session of the Ad Hoc Committee, which started Monday and is due to conclude on Friday, has as its purpose the elaboration of a negotiating strategy for a possible convention.

During the general debate today, a total of 21 speakers expressed serious concern over the rapid pace of developments in the field of cloning, with many calling for a human rights-based approach to negotiating a convention. The line appeared to demarcate those seeking a total ban from those favoring a partial one to allow for medical advances in the prevention and treatment of disease.
Why ban human cloning?

Most mainstream scientists are set against attempts at reproductive human cloning, including Ian Wilmut, the British embryologist who led the team which cloned Dolly the sheep, and Richard Gardner, who chaired a Royal Society working group on human cloning. The most persuasive argument is that the risks are far too great at present. It is feared that human cloning would be cruel, because the process may result in a large number of miscarriages and deformities before a human could be successfully cloned. For instance, it took 272 attempts to create Dolly. Even then, the child could not be guaranteed ongoing good health.

As Prof Gardner put it: "Our experience with animals suggests that there would be a very real danger of creating seriously handicapped individuals if anybody tries to implant cloned human embryos into the womb." Many religious groups, including some Roman Catholic and Muslim organisations, also object to cloning. There are many ethical arguments for a ban, including fears that cloning humans will lead to "designer babies" with genetic traits selected by their parents, or a black market for embryos, and the creation of a "genetic underclass".