Baby Yao an American? Surely not, say Chinese fans

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BEIJING, March 4 --While everyone knows that NBA center Yao Ming will become a father this summer, the big buzz in China is about whether the baby will be an American.

The Shanghai native's personal life is closely followed by his many fans at home, from his 2007 Shanghai wedding to fellow basketball player Ye Li to last month's reports the couple is expecting a baby girl in July.

The 2.25-meter star, sidelined this season with a broken left foot, recently returned to the United States with Ye, igniting speculation that the baby will be born there.

Yao's baby would automatically be an American citizen if born in the US.

However, Chinese law does not recognize dual citizenship.

A few say it would be a betrayal of China and that the Chinese team could be denied a future basketball star.

But most support Yao and don't care which country claims the baby.

"Yao Ming is an individual, not a political tool," said one comment on popular basketball Website Hoop China.

"He has the right to choose where his child is born and what kind of medical care and education will be available to her. His child's citizenship has nothing to do with loyalty."

Yao and his camp have been tight-lipped on the pregnancy and have not issued any public statements on the matter.

It is not clear if Yao and his wife are indeed planning to have the baby in the US or how they will handle any citizenship issues.

'Private matter'

Yao spokesman Zhang Mingji declined to comment on the baby, saying it was a private matter.

He said Yao was still recovering from his injury and was returning to the US to continue treatment.

A number of Chinese celebrities - including actor Jet Li, actress Gong Li and director Chen Kaige - have in recent years been criticized for becoming naturalized citizens of other countries.

Chinese are subject to stringent visa requirements and some of the celebrities argued it was easier to travel internationally with passports from countries like Singapore or the US.

Baby Yao has captured the imagination of fans in China, who wonder what her basketball skills will be like, with a superstar father and 1.9-meter mother who is a former center for China.

Scientists have predicted the girl will grow up to be about 1.86 meters.

(China Daily)