Angry members of the public are calling for Bijie’s Communist Party chief Zhang Jiyong to step down following the deaths of five homeless boys in a rubbish dumpster last Friday.
The tragedy has outraged China’s netizens and sparked criticism of the local government’s efforts to help the homeless.
As of Tuesday morning, the incident has already led to the sackings of six mid-ranking officials in charge of civil affairs and education in the town, northwestern of Guizhou province, according to Xinhua news agency.
A police investigation and subsequent post mortem concluded that the children, who died on Friday, were killed by carbon monoxide released from the fire they set to keep themselves warm in the bin, Xinhua reported on Monday.
Bijie government has also confirmed the five children’s identities. Shared the same last name, Tao, they are at age between nine and 13.
Bijie propaganda official Tang Guangxing said the five boys were from related local families. “[They are children of] three families of siblings or cousins.”
Tao Jinyou, father of one of victims, told Xinhua the children left their families altogether three weeks ago.
He added four of five children had not been to school, because they “don’t like to study because of bad grades.” They had left families before but had all been found and returned home by police.
Tao Jin, a social affairs official in Bijie, told CCTV six out of the eight regions in Bijie had built aid stations aimed at helping the homeless.
“We have helped a total of 158 homeless children since last February,” Tao said. “And we are checking the records to see whether the victims visited the centres.”
Wang Zhenyao, head of the China Philanthropy Research Institute, said much more needed to be done to prevent future tragedies.
“Besides the aid stations, governments also need to erect clearer signs with contact information,” Wang said. He also called on the local government to hire more social workers specialised in helping homeless children.
The story first went public after an online user posted it on a popular online forum called kdnet.net on Saturday. The Beijing News then confirmed it with Bije local government on Sunday.
But as of Monday night, neither the Bijie government website nor the two local newspapers had published any news about the tragedy – five days after the children’s bodies had been found, CCTV said.