Starved girl, 8, leaps from balcony home to seek food

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 July, 2011, 12:00am


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The starved eight-year-old girl doesn't wish for much. She'd like a pink dress - and the chance to be reunited with her mother in Hong Kong, instead of being locked on a balcony by her stepmother.

On Thursday evening, the malnourished girl could cope with her hunger no longer. She jumped from the first-floor balcony in Guangzhou to seek food. She was later found by a local couple outside a convenience store, chewing on a packet of biscuits.

Local media yesterday called the story a serious case of child abuse.

'I was really too hungry, so I jumped,' the girl said.

The girl, who holds Hong Kong residency, had not only been denied food but had also been kept away from school since May.

Her parents divorced when she was just three, and she has not seen her mother since.

She lived on the balcony of a middle-class flat in Guangzhou's Panyu district. After being discovered on Thursday, she was taken to a centre for the homeless.

Her father and stepmother had not arrived to collect her, The Southern Metropolis News reported.

Local authorities and the media were searching for the girl's biological mother in Hong Kong, in the hope the two could be reunited.

'When I was at school, [my stepmother] demanded that I finish all homework at school. She makes me stand at home and sleep on the balcony. I don't even get a blanket and she locks the balcony door. There are many mosquitoes at night. My hands are often covered with blood from hitting mosquitoes when I wake up in the morning,' she told local media.

She added that her stepmother kicked her in the head when she found her drinking milk.

The girl was described as timid and afraid of interaction by staff at the shelter. One former neighbour, who hadn't seen the girl in recent years, said he did not recognise her.

He showed a picture of the girl with his daughter, taken at a kindergarten, in which the child appeared to be happy and had chubby legs.

The girl had been well looked after by her grandparents, he added, and had done well at kindergarten.

On Saturday, the girl's father and stepmother finally agreed to talk to neighbours and reporters.

'There is nothing we can do to change her. We are exhausted inside and out and our health deteriorated,' they said. 'Her grandparents have nourished bad habits for the girl, she is now a thief ... and a liar.'

They said the girl skipped meals and preferred to eat chocolate and drink milk. She was withdrawn from school because she stole, they added.

However, the girl's teacher gave a different account. She said the child had been at the school since February and managed only about 15 days every month, with the parents citing her frail health as the reason. The girl was obedient, quiet and scored well at school, she added.

'She was not that skinny two months ago,' the teacher said after visiting the girl in the shelter.

A Guangzhou-based lawyer said local police seldom intervened in domestic abuse cases.

'They try not to intervene ... unless the abuse has reached a severe consequence,' he said. '[Mainland] child protection law is nowhere near as advanced as those of Hong Kong and western countries. This would be a criminal case, so Hong Kong authorities could not step in.'