• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 8:07pm

Abandoned: Heartbreaking pictures of parents leaving their children in China’s notorious 'baby hatches'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 9:24am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 November, 2014, 11:47am

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.



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This article is now closed to comments

i don't know. this was the most moving thing i have seen in a rather long time. very thought provoking, and very insightful in a way that doesn't shame or humiliate, or even identify those unfortunate souls who are left to this final recourse. I appreciated the article, and i don't believe that any harm was done directly to anyone included, but on the other hand, something positive, in the general sense, may benefit the children as a result of the heightened awareness within the general public.
This is from the article..."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."
So tell me Jason, how much money would a person like you have to save in order to plan to have a child with disabilities as what was stated? They want their children to be healed and to live, many will never be, this is their last resort.
To think that as a parent you have done everything can, and yet all effort was wasted, then having to come the decision that someone else can take care of my child better then me, then to give up that child for the best interest of that child, most responsible and selfless act a parent can do.
I wouldn't tell you not to be judgemental, but maybe a bit of empathy is good once in a while.
These “baby hatches” are not as backwards as you think. Many nations have them including the US where it’s known as the safe-haven law.

Only problem is that in China and other developing countries, the “abandonment rate” is higher than 1st world countries. That’s where the “notorious” reputation comes in.

It’s certainly much better for a child to be “abandoned” at these baby hatches than to be left for dead.
People sitting in their comfy homes, and offices in front of their massive desktop screens or reading this news in their smartphone that costs much more than an entire household's annual salary in a developing country can easily comment and condemn this and then forget it . But these parent's are not leaving their kids happily are they? They are forced to do this. At least these shelters are better than leaving the kids in the roadside isn't it? Before being quick to comment just know that even in your community poverty is present. Do something about it before condemning hapless humans.
This article has to be one of the best articles in SCMP for a while, CONGRATS! It's news journalism: informative, factual and controversial. (Not like those artcles with rhetorical headings "Are Mainlanders this and that?").
they would not be forced to do this if there was a safety net with health care for the impoverished
but do not despair , china is building a global GPS system cause one plane got lost and possibly some more missions to the moon to send failed hardware
How many god worshipping people have not committed the most terrible crimes? Or have we forgotten about the crusades, Northern Ireland bombings and the hatred and killing between the different religious groupings all over the world just because they worship a different god? They kill in His name and "justify" their killing by doing so.
And have you forgotten about all those kids who were raped by the priests? That really shows some "class"
I am a parent myself and I am shocked and disgusted. All seems to be a money issue only: not beeing able or willing to pay for medical bills, not beeing able or willing to take car of ill and disbaled children. This is China? The peacefully rising Lion? Beeing able to shoot people into space but not beeing able to offer poor citizens medical aid for their kids? The only thing they can offer to these parents is a "hatch"? This baby hatch is in Guangzhou!!! The capital of one of the richest provinces in China.
Dear SCMP. Thanks for the article. I hope to read very soon a detailed article about what actually happens to the babies and kids who are "pushed through" this hatch. How they are then brought up and what the social workers are doing with them
Yes indeed "bogalas", I can easily comment and even make judgemental comments on these irresponsible low life parents. The reason why I can sit in my comfy home right now is because I chose to live a single life and also choose NOT to have ANY children until I can actually afford them a relatively good lifestyle. People are all accustomed to knowing that they can't buy a certain house, lifestyle or luxury good without money, but for some reason the same assumptions aren't being applied before they have children, whom are more important than any "things" life has to offer. This old outdated and antiquated tradition of Chinese parents must have children is hyper irresponsible amongst the poor who often have more children than even the wealthy middle class.
Yes, do something! But why can the Chinese government not help these families directly? If the government is taking (good) care of these kids after they are brought to this "hatch", they could also offer the same care and help to these families directly, so that the kids can stay at home. This is so pervers, China is now one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world, but they cannot divert direct help to their poorest. Given the fact that China sits on the largest curreny reserves and has all abilities of the so called developed, this is just pathetic.



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