Abandoned: Heartbreaking pictures of parents leaving their children in China’s notorious 'baby hatches'
They are truly heartbreaking scenes. The moments of despair as parents cling to their children for one last time before abandoning them in China's so-called baby hatches.
A father kisses his child, her face hidden in a blanket. A mother holds her hooded baby as their shadows are cast upon the last door they will pass through together. Another collapses to the ground, reaching out to touch her son for the last time.
They are the final moments of lives torn apart, often by poverty or an inability to cope with disease or disability.
“My baby cannot take care of itself when it grows up,” one woman cries, explaining that her infant has Down’s syndrome. ‘I just want my baby to survive,” she tells the Information Times newspaper based in Guangzhou. She and an accompanying female friend leave, both in tears.
An uncle leaves his niece. She is suffering from leukaemia and her parents cannot afford her medical bills.
Her parents, he says, are waiting in a car nearby, unable to face saying goodbye to their own daughter. As he walks away the girl starts to cry.
And still they come.
A father and son hide behind surgical masks, with caps pulled down over their faces. They have travelled for more than an hour to the Guangzhou facility.
“It would be better for the baby if he stays in your centre,” the elder man tells security. “We cannot afford to raise him.” They leave a note and several hundred yuan before disappearing into the night.
There are about 25 such hatch facilities in mainland China, spanning 10 provinces and major cities.
Pioneered in Shijiazhuang in Hebei province more than two years ago, they have drawn heated debate, especially since the Ministry of Civil Affairs decided to expand the project nationwide before the end of 2015.
A parent typically opens a door and places their infant in a small room, rings a bell and leaves. Minutes later welfare services collect the child and begin the task of finding it a new home, most likely in an orphanage.
The hatches are supposed to provide a safety net to ensure parents do not simply leave their unwanted offspring on the streets or dump them at hospitals, although critics argue they encourage drastic action.
In Guangzhou a baby hatch opened on January 28. It was forced to shut its doors after less than two months as staff were overwhelmed with 262 abandoned youngsters.
All were ill or disabled. Almost half had cerebral palsy, 15 per cent Down’s syndrome and 12 per cent were suffering congenital heart disease. Almost one in 10 died.
After the doors closed Xu Jiu, director of the city’s welfare centre for children that runs the facility, was forced to warn parents that anyone abandoning their children while the centre was shut would be reported to police and face prosecution.
At the centre a man dressed in black carries his four-year-old to the door. He is stopped by security guards who tell him the child is too old for the facility.
“But no one will take my child. The doctor said [s/he] could never be cured.”
He sits outside for 10 minutes. Then they leave together.