By Grace Li
HONG KONG, March 17 (Reuters) - Chinese authorities have suspended operations at a "baby hatch", where anonymous mothers can safely abandoned new-born babies, in the city of Guangzhou as a surge in the number of infants has overwhelmed the centre which only opened in late January.
Many Chinese cities have set up baby hatches, which consist of an incubator and a delayed alarm, to protect unwanted newborns in a country where strict family planning laws have been blamed for the high number of baby girls being abandoned.
The baby hatch in Guangzhou which opened on January 28 has so far received 262 abandoned babies, 148 boys and 114 girls, according to the city's Bureau of Civil Affairs.
All the babies suffered from diseases, including 110 cases of cerebral palsy, 39 cases of Down's syndrome, and 32 cases of congenital heart disease, the bureau said.
"Due to an increasing number of abandoned babies at the baby hatch, the orphanage's ability to receive those babies has reached the limit," said Xu Jiu, director of Guangzhou Social Welfare Institute, at a briefing.
Baby hatches have sparked concern among some that they may encourage more parents to abandon babies. But Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo told reporters during the annual parliament meetings this month that they "do more good than harm".
Twenty-five cities in China have set up baby hatches as a pilot programme, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Guangzhou is the first to suspend the programme. The city, which is part of China's Pearl River Delta industrial hub in Guangdong Province where millions of migrant workers live, received more babies than other major cities.
Over the first 50 days, 16 unwanted babies were found at the baby hatch in Tianjin, while 25 were found at the one in Nanjing, local papers reported.
(Reporting By Grace Li; Editing by Michael Perry)