As Spring Festival draws near, migrant workers are heading home for family reunions after a year of hard work. But for some of them, the happy moment is shadowed with a sense of suspicion over the fidelity of their long-separated spouses.
This explains the rising number of paternity tests at this time of the year.
"We are always busiest during the run-up to Spring Festival," said Cui Yugui, head of the Paternity Test Centre affiliated to Jiangsu Provincial People's Hospital. "It is the peak time for paternity tests."
According to Cui, the centre has received more than 10 requests a day since mid-November, as compared to two or three each day normally.
About 90 percent of those who bring their children for tests are fathers. "Some are sceptical about their newborn babies," said Cui.
"They (the migrant workers) are separated from their spouses for a large part of the year. They don't earn much, but they choose to spend a lot on the test. It is such a pity," said Cui.
Cui said his centre conducted about 500 tests around Spring Festival last year, of which 350 were requested by fathers who had worked in separate cities from their wives.
A survey done by the centre showed that 78 percent of those seeking the tests suspected that their wives had been engaged in extramarital affairs when they were away working.
"Mothers are generally reluctant to come. When a mother turns up, she is often a single mother who wants to get evidence to find out the biological father of the child so she can demand compensation," said Cui.
According to Cui, 80 percent of the tests they have done since they began in 2001 have shown positive results, proving the suspicious father is the biological father of the baby.
Cui's centre is one of three paternity test institutions certificated by authorities in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province in east China.
Paternity test centers nationwide have also reported similar increases in test requests during festival season.
There are more than 100 officially authorized institutions in the country conducting paternity tests. The accuracy rate is estimated at 99.9 percent, said Cui.
"It is a sign of an increasingly open society," he said.
However, for Wu Zebin, a researcher at the Sociology Department of Peking University, the increasing number of paternity tests shows that people are facing a trust crisis.
"In such a fast-changing society, people no longer trust each other, even though they are husband and wife," said Wu.
Zhang Yan, a teacher at Nanjing University, said: "A paternity test can't solve the problem. Even if it gives a positive result, the mutual trust between the couple has been damaged."
Cui said his centre often warns the parents of the possible consequences before the test and persuades them not to conduct it.
"If they insist, we will keep their profile confidential," said Cui.
People often chose hospitals in other cities in order not to run into acquaintances when taking the test, he added.
(China Daily January 4, 2006)