Part of complete coverage on
'Baby hatch' overwhelmed in Southern Chinese city
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
A "baby hatch" in Nanjing, China, which is used as a safe alternative to abandonment of infants on the street.
- Guangzhou "baby hatch" forced to close due to overwhelming numbers of abandoned infants
- 262 babies -- an average of more than five a day -- dropped off since hatch opened
- Closed facility unsure when it can reopen
- Controversial program set to expand in coming months
(CNN) -- One of China's controversial "baby hatches" has been forced to shut down, at least temporarily. The facility in the southern city of Guangzhou opened in January but has been overwhelmed with abandoned infants, forcing a suspension of services.
The first of the facilities opened in 2011 and increased to around 25 hatches countrywide. More of the special rooms, which are equipped with a cradle, incubator and delayed alarm to allow mothers to drop off unwanted babies anonymously, are planned. While abandoning infants in China is illegal, the practice is relatively widespread, especially in poorer areas.
The Guangzhou "baby safety island," as they are known in Chinese, has received 262 babies since it began operation in late January, according to Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.
All 262 babies suffer from disabilities or diseases such as cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome and congenital heart disease according to Xinhua. The scheme's proponents argue that the hatches are key to saving the lives of children who would likely die if abandoned on the street.
Since its opening, the facility received an average of around five babies a day. The staggering number of infants who have been abandoned in the city has meant that the hatch's operator has not been able to keep up with the volume. The city's Welfare Center for Children has had to add spaces to take their facilities to 1,100 beds, but these are already full.
Xu Jiu the center's director told Xinhua that the Guangzhou baby hatch had received a disproportionate number of infants.
"The number of babies we have received is much higher than in other parts of the country over the same period," he said.
He added that it could be parents who are unable to cope with the heavy economic burden of trying to treat incurable diseases.
"Parents bring their ill babies to big cities in the hope of having them cured. But many just end up abandoning them," he said
He was not able to predict a date when normal service would resume, but rather said that the center would focus on the children already in their care.
The unprecedented response to the facility's opening is causing some to question the wisdom of the scheme. However, the government appears to be standing by the hatches.
Li Liguo, Minister of Civil Affairs, told reporters in the background of the country's annual meeting of parliament this month that they "do more good than harm."
Chinese police save hundreds of babies from online trading racket
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
Over 200 Chinese villagers in Sichuan province have signed a petition to banish a HIV-positive eight-year-old boy, state media reported.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane, forcing the Nanjing-bound plane to turn back to Bangkok.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Like Beijing today, Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons.
December 6, 2014 -- Updated 0542 GMT (1342 HKT)
At the height of his power, Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0826 GMT (1626 HKT)
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0648 GMT (1448 HKT)
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 0855 GMT (1655 HKT)
Despite an anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past 12 months.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
A 24-hour Taipei bookstore is a hangout for hipsters as well as bookworms.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.