11:31 GMT20 February 2020
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    A Hong Kong airline forced a Japanese woman to take a pregnancy test before allowing her to board a flight to Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the western Pacific Ocean.

    According to AFP, 25-year-old Midori Nishida, who is not pregnant, was escorted to a public bathroom at Hong Kong International Airport and forced to take a pregnancy test in November before being allowed to board her Hong Kong Express flight to Saipan, which is a popular destination for women who want to give birth on US territory to obtain American citizenship for their baby. Nishida was forced to take a pregnancy test even after stating in a questionnaire at check-in that she was not pregnant.

    "It was very humiliating and frustrating," Nishida, who has lived on the island of Saipan for more than 20 years, told the Wall Street Journal.

    In a statement obtained by AFP, Hong Kong Express said that it has apologized to Nishida and suspended the practice of forcing women to take pregnancy tests.

    "We have immediately suspended the practice while we review it. We'd like to apologize for the distress caused," the airline said in a statement, also noting that it had taken “action on flights to Saipan from February 2019 to help ensure US immigration laws were not being undermined.” However, the airline added that it now recognizes the “the significant concerns” associated with the practice.

    According to AFP, about 600 babies were born to tourists in the Northern Mariana Islands in 2018, with around 575 being born to Chinese mothers. The inflow of Chinese women giving birth in the archipelago began after the implementation of a visa-waiver program that made the islands the only US territory that Chinese citizens could enter without a visa.

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