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China on Friday announced its latest crackdown on prenatal gender exams and illegal abortions despite further progress in narrowing the gap between the high number of male versus female births.

Authorities will target clinics and agencies “suspected, but never caught” carrying out tests that allow parents to determine the sex of their child and abort in favor of a male heir.

“Fetus gender exams and abortions are the direct reason for the unusual sex ratio of newborns in China,” Li Bin of the National Health and Family Planning Commission told state news agency Xinhua.

The latest figures show the gap has narrowed since 2013, from 118 to 115 male births for every 100 females. 

But China still registers the widest gender gap of any country, well above the worldwide average of about 102 boys born for every 100 girls.

Last year, China recorded 8,000 cases of illegal gender exams and abortions, said Li.

“However, only a small fraction of them were given serious punishment,” he added. “Driven by both market demand and potential high profits, the number of cross-regional cases...

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