The Guest Room

A Hong Kong blog that does a lot more than blog

NewChinaHand:Baby Hatch Closes


Sad news this week as a baby hatch in the southern city of Guangzhou was forced to close as staff were overwhelmed by the numbers of anonymously-abandoned babies.

Although abandoning children is illegal in China, such hatches – where babies can be left in controlled, safe environments and picked up by welfare workers – have been set up across the country: a total of 25 so far, according to official figures. More are planned, including for the capital, Beijing.

Many families in China are unable to face expensive health care costs for sick infants. When coupled with the social stigma attached to certain disabilities, abandonment can sometimes seem the only option. All of the children left in the Guangzhou hatch showed early signs of illnesses or disabilities, including cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and congenital heart problems. Tragically, around nine percent did not survive.

There has been some criticism in China that perhaps baby hatches have encouraged the abandonment of children by making parents feel more secure in their decision. Many localities, however, lack skills and specialist care facilities, leading parents to make the journey to larger urban centres that might have better care, but also the accompanying higher costs. It is suspected that cases of infanticide persist in some rural areas of China where deep-rooted superstition exists alongside a lack of education and professional support.

The baby hatches are an imperfect solution to a harrowing problem. Proposed alternatives include a special health care subsidy for the parents of children with certain conditions, or even free medical care for these groups. It is not clear, however, how these measures could be made to reach all of the affected families.

The problem is not unique to China, or, indeed, modern times: the baby hatch idea has spread from Central Europe around the world over the past decade, including the ‘Babyklappe’ in Germany. Such sanctuaries were also features of some towns in the Middle Ages. Their effectiveness – and morality – in dealing with the very modern social problems of China and beyond will be a topic of controversy for years to come.

Selected Sources and Further Reading:

8 comments on “NewChinaHand:Baby Hatch Closes

  1. theguestroom
    March 24, 2014

    It makes me sick thinking about people just dropping off their babies like this. Disgusting!

    • NewChinaHand
      March 24, 2014

      I cant agree. This is an act of utter desperation and, perversely, one mainly concerned with the future of the child. Parents who have trekked from rural areas to drop off their child would find it much easier and with less risk of prosecution to kill them and dispose of the body, as is happening by some accounts. One report is of a man arriving at the closed facility in Guangzhou in utter despair for his daughter’s chances of survival. The numbers involved just shows the demand for help, in any form. An imperfect solution, but a solution (in the short term).

  2. Mr.j
    March 24, 2014

    I don’t think that’s the case here.
    In Germany, where they have around 100 places to drop babies like they do in China, they have an average of 2 per year.
    it’s not a matter of life and death when a father drops a boy off with Down syndrome!
    There are so many other reasons like social acceptance and fear. But most significantly there’s just a lack of compassion and appreciation of life in china.

    Also, I’d say, China needs a better sex education and welfare system.


    • NewChinaHand
      March 24, 2014

      Germany is a rich European nation with an already established welfare system, effective education and modern, universal healthcare. It’s population is a fraction of China’s, approximately equivalent to the province of Guangdong alone. Quite simply, there are other, better options for the majority of parents in this situation in Germany.
      I’m astounded by your assertion that compassion doesn’t exist in China, nor is life valued! Undoubtedly this comes from your wealth of experience living there! If this were true, why would the parents not simply kill their Down’s or cleft palette or diseased child rather than spending so much time, money and risk in seeking help for it?
      Of course China would benefit from better education and welfare, but these take time and there are issues to do with the administration of such a large beast as China that make these policies challenging to implement. Creative solutions need to be found in the short term and this is one. At the very least, these hatches serve to illustrate the scale and depth of the problem and the kinds of areas the authorities need to prioritise.
      I think you need to check yo’ 1st-world privilege, Mr. J!

  3. theguestroom
    March 24, 2014

    First of all, saying that there is a lack of compassion and appreciation of life in China is not the same as saying it doesn’t exist.

    Secondly, there are a lot of extremely poor people in Berlin.

    What additional medical expenses are there for a child with Down syndrome compared to a child without, in China?! My guess is nothing!

    The same question for children with cleft lip?!

    Since when is cleft lip and being bowl legged life threatening?!

    Children with or without disease are very expensive. They knew this throughout their nine month pregnancy.

    Very few of these cases might have been do to unaffordability, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the major reason these kids are being dumped is because the parents didn’t like the finished product.
    And that’s disgusting.

    Why do you think that almost all of the children being dumped off in China have physical or mental problems? Doesn’t that draw any red flags to you?


    • NewChinaHand
      March 24, 2014

      Mr J:

      Saying that there is a lack of compassion and appreciation of life in China IS EXACTLY the same as saying it doesn’t exist, or at the very least you need to check the dictionary and clarify your usage.

      But semantics aside, I repeat my points about Germany having modern, universal welfare, education and health systems and I’d also propose that even the poorest in Berlin face challenges that are (almost literally) a world away from those of the poorest in China – the difference between relative and absolute poverty, I’ll think you’ll find.

      The most prevalent condition among the babies left in Guangzhou, as I’m sure you read, was cerebral palsy, a condition that not only requires expensive healthcare but also, in many cases, removes the sufferer from the workforce, a double burden which is likely too heavy for a subsistence -existence family to shoulder, whereas in rural communities an ‘expensive’ child ‘without disease’, as you have it, would be expected to contribute to his or her family from a very early age. How does this fit your theory that ‘the major reason these kids are being dumped is because the parents didn’t like the finished product’?

      Furthermore, if this were true and children were being dumped because of aesthetic or cultural reasons rather than harsh economic reality, wouldn’t we expect to see more healthy females at the baby hatch, given the famous preference for males in Chinese culture and the one child policy? The number of healthy female babies left in Guangzhou was… zero!

      In terms of additional medical expenses, I think you need to do a tad more research. Treatment for a cleft lip invariably requires surgery – which isn’t free – and 20 or more years of follow-up treatments and consultations. Cleft lips can be life-threatening if they affect the baby’s feeding. Although the conditions aren’t mentioned in the article, 9% of the babies dropped in Guangzhou subsequently perished, again suggesting their conditions were not simply aesthetic.

      German parents, in common with those of other developed countries, have prenatal screening for conditions such as Down’s syndrome. Depending on whose figures you trust, the termination rates for babies diagnosed in the womb is between 50 and 90% in the US! It’s impossible and not particularly useful to speculate what the rate would be among these poor parents in China, but again, to repeat a point that you’ve perhaps missed, these parents are not only bringing their children full term but spending time and money and putting themselves at personal risk of imprisonment in those oh-so-comfortable Chinese jails to seek a solution which does not involve the death of their child and may well be their only realistic chance of a life with any quality.

      And you say they don’t appreciate life (enough)?

  4. theguestroom
    March 24, 2014


    As a parent, I would never abandon my kid! I’d rather die myself then dump my kid in some box. That’s my responsibility as a parent. Sure cerebral palsy and some of the other conditions these children had are tough, but pretending that finances are the cause for these actions is just not the reality.
    Who’s feeding that father who made the long trip to Guangzhou? Who’s paying for him to live?
    Your naive thinking is that if the children were healthy, that it would make all the difference in the world! That everything would be great.
    But to me, it’s glaringly obvious that you are seeing a massive number of dumped off kids in China because there is something very seriously wrong with the morals of these people getting rid of their offspring so easily.

    And saying I lack something doesn’t mean I have none of it!

    NCH and I are actually friends…;)
    We do have some good chats at th pub once in a while ! To say the least!

    What do you all think?! Get in on this mess!

    • NewChinaHand
      March 24, 2014

      Obviously I can’t agree!

      Whatever arguments have been put forward, the truth is that no one can categorically say why these parents abandoned their children, but it’s happening, in increasing numbers, and it’s not the worst imaginable outcome for the children involved.

      Hopefully, through this article and the comments above, I’ve introduced yourself and our readers to a situation that’s (also hopefully) very alien to our own in the hope of improving understanding and appreciating the plight of those who would consider luxuries what we take for granted each and every day. To dismiss all of them, blanket-style, as ‘disgusting’ seems narrow-minded to me, but then again I always try to understand and appreciate a problem before casting judgement (if, indeed, it’s appropriate to!).

      No one is doubting your responsibility, commitment and care as a parent, Mr J, and that’s coming from someone who has witnessed all of those, and the wonderful product of them, first hand!

Your thoughts please

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on March 24, 2014 by in NewChinaHand and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Join 4,682 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: