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China fans ask, will Yao Ming's baby be American?

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese basketball fans want to know — will Yao Ming's baby be an American?

The Houston Rockets center, who is sidelined this season with a broken left foot, recently returned to the United States with wife Ye Li. That prompted speculation among his followers that the baby girl due this summer could be born in America.

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

Yao's baby would be an American citizen if born in the U.S. She also could claim Chinese citizenship as the child of Chinese nationals. However, Chinese law does not recognize dual citizenship.

A few say it would be a betrayal of China, not to mention the Chinese basketball team could be denied a future basketball star. But most say they 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 Web site Hoop China. "He has the right to choose where his child is born and what kinds of medical care and education will be available to her. His child's citizenship has nothing to do with loyalty."

"Only an idiot would pass up American citizenship," said another fan on online portal sina.com, underscoring the common belief in China that life overseas is preferable.

Yao and his camp have been tightlipped on the pregnancy and have not issued any public statements on the matter. It was not clear if Yao and his wife were indeed planning to have the baby in the U.S. or how they would handle any citizenship issues.

Yao spokesman Zhang Mingji declined to comment, saying it was a private matter. He said Yao was still recovering from the foot injury and getting treatment in the U.S.

A number of Chinese celebrities have 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 such as Singapore or the U.S.

Baby Yao has captured the imagination of fans in China. They wonder about her potential basketball skills with a 7-foot-6 father and 6-foot-2 mother, who was a center for China.

Scientists have predicted the girl will grow up to be the size of her mother, state media has reported.