by Xinhua writers Cao Bin and Yu Tao
URUMQI, April 11 (Xinhua) -- A baby hatch will come into service in China's farwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on June 1, reinforcing the country's determination in protecting the rights of unwanted children.
The hatch will allow a parent to safely and anonymously abandon an infant.
"We see it as a channel that offers first aid service to abandoned infants," said Zhang Dongfang, director of Urumqi City Welfare Center for Children.
The baby hatch, which will consist of an incubator, a delayed alarm device, an air conditioner and a baby bed, will be near the front gate of the welfare center and a five-minute drive from an affiliated hospital of Xinjiang Medical University.
A parent can place the baby in the hatch, press the alarm button, and leave. Welfare staff will retrieve the baby within 10 minutes. There will be leaflets written in both Chinese and Uygur, but no camera or monitoring device will be installed inside the booth, according to Zhang.
The first baby hatch in the country was set up in June 2011 in Shijiazhuang, capital city of north China's Hebei Province. Since then a total of 25 baby hatches have been established across the country.
Some believe the hatches encourage people to abandon their unwanted babies. However, others argue they demonstrate social progress in protecting and saving the lives of babies.
A total of 262 babies had been collected from a hatch in the southern city of Guangzhou since it was established in late January, causing a severe shortage of resources and leading to a temporary suspension.
But Zhang said the suspension in Guangzhou was an isolated case. Not many Chinese cities are comparable to Guangzhou in terms of the scale of floating population and the number of migrant workers.
In Zhang's view, baby hatches do not necessarily lead to abandonment. Zhang, who has worked at the welfare center for nearly a decade, said that almost all the babies that the center has taken in suffered from diseases, disabilities or illnesses.
"No parent wants to give his or her child up. A welfare center is the last resort for desperate parents who are under huge pressures," Zhang said. "A baby hatch is not the main reason for abandonment."
Only four infants were left in a baby hatch during a 10-month period in Ulanqab City of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The welfare center in Tianjin municipality has witnessed no obvious change in the number of abandoned infants since its baby hatch came into use in January.
The existence of a hatch reflects a gray area in the judicial interpretation of abandonment as a crime, but what is more important is a facility that provides security for those who are abandoned.
"The fact that abandonment is unavoidable constitutes the basis for establishing baby hatches. It is consistent with the legislative spirit of the law on the protection of minors that children's rights come first," said Pan Xiaoyan, a national legislator.
Qin Xiyan, who runs a law firm and is also a deputy to the National People's Congress, said the aim of baby hatches and convicting those who abandon infants is the same, which is to better protect the rights of children.
"The law prevents unwanted infants from being abandoned while baby hatches offer immediate protection to vulnerable minors who are already abandoned," Qin said. "But the existence of baby hatches does not alleviate the seriousness of abandonment, nor does it relieve anyone from legal responsibilities."