AP Wire Service
BEIJING (AP) — Several local Chinese officials were fired or suspended following the deaths of four siblings, aged 5 to 13, who were abandoned by their parents and neglected by government workers in one of China’s poorest regions, the district government said.
Two village heads were fired and three other officials — including the district education chief — were suspended from their work and were being investigated, according to a statement by the Qixingguan district government in the southwestern city of Bijie.
The district government promised to take proper disciplinary action after the investigation.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also demanded that local governments be more careful in providing aid services. He asked that such tragedies not occur again.
The deaths have renewed concerns over the wellbeing of tens of millions of rural Chinese children who are left behind in their villages while their parents seek work in factories in faraway industrial cities.
In the latest incident, the siblings — a 13-year-old boy and his three younger sisters — died Wednesday after drinking liquid pesticide at home in their village of Tiankan.
State broadcaster CCTV said the boy left behind a suicidal note in which he wrote, “‘This matter has been planned for a long time, and today is the day to go.”
The children’s father left the village for work in March, and their mother has been away for a while, state media reported.
The father had sent the children money, and police recovered a bank card with a balance of nearly $600, state media reported. Yet, the children could not properly look after themselves and may have had psychological problems because of the long absence of their parents, fellow villagers told state media.
Authorities have described the deaths as a group suicide, but local media accounts also describe the boy as influential over his sisters.
After the children left school, one of the girls told teachers their older brother did not want them to return. State media said the children did not open the door when village cadres and teachers visited, and local residents said the children kept to themselves.
Bijie, in impoverished Guizhou province, was the location of another childhood tragedy about three years ago when five runaway boys became asphyxiated after lighting a fire in a garbage bin where they were sheltering from the cold. (end)