China's first center for training hearing dogs for deaf people will be set up at Beijing Union University with financial support from Samsung, an official partner of the 2008 Paralympics, a spokesman for the firm said Thursday on the sidelines of the Games.
Park Keun-hee, president of Samsung China, said the company will donate 1.4 million yuan ($200,000) to establish the facility at the university, where more than 300 students with hearing problems are following courses in higher education.
He did not say when the center would open.
The center will, however, be one of only a handful in existence around the world. Similar facilities exist in the US, the UK, Japan and South Korea, Park said.
The center in South Korea was set up in 1993, and since then has trained 650 "assistant dogs" for a variety of people including the blind, the deaf and police officers, he said.
"Staff at the Samsung Assistant Dog Service Training Base in South Korea have a lot of experience in training dogs, and we hope to bring that knowledge to China to provide long-term support for deaf people here," Park said.
The dogs, many of which are former strays, are provided free of charge.
Samsung will provide financial support for the center's first three years of operation, he said.
Hearing dogs are trained to distinguish between different types of sounds, such as a telephone ringing, a knock at the door or a fire alarm.
They then "touch" a specific part of their owner's body to indicate the particular sound.
The Beijing center will train four dogs per year in the beginning, with the number growing over time, Park said.
Although China has more than 20 million people with hearing problems, there are just three hearing dogs working in the country, two of which were provided by Samsung in 2006 to two students at Beijing Union University.
Dong Shan, one of the dogs' owners, said: "I've had my dog for over two years now, and it has become my close friend.
"It has made my life much easier."
China's third hearing dog, also donated by Samsung, was presented Thursday to Qi Daxin, a deaf man living in Beijing.
"Getting this dog in my 50s is great," the 53-year-old said using sign language.
"It will help me to become more integrated in society."