Five more young boys die trying to keep warm in Guizhou

Home-alone youngsters asphyxiated while burning straw in barn, mirroring the tragedy of a fire in rubbish bin three months ago

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 5:47am

Three months after the death of five boys in a rubbish bin in Guizhou province shocked the nation, five more boys have been killed in a similar incident in the same province.

The boys, aged between four and six, were burning straw in a poorly ventilated barn used for curing tobacco, Xinhua reported.

Their parents were away, helping to prepare for a wedding in nearby Chaoyang village in Majiang county. By the time a villager found them on Monday, four were dead. The other died on the way to the hospital.

The boys, aged between four and six, were burning straw in a poorly ventilated barn used for curing tobacco

One boy was a member of the Miao ethnic minority and four came from the Buyi minority.

The provincial government has given each of their families 22,000 yuan (HK$27,370) in condolence money and 100kg of rice.

In November, five boys aged nine to 13 died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Bijie after they climbed into a dumpster and lit a fire to keep warm. They were cousins from three families and had been living on the street for several weeks.

Their parents were either working in other cities or too busy working in the fields to look after them properly.

Their deaths drew nationwide attention to the plight of the mainland's street children, who are often the victims of broken families or the children of migrant workers.

Police and the civil affairs and urban management authorities were widely criticised for failing to do their jobs.

Lu Xiaoquan, deputy director of the Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Consultation Service Centre, said this week's tragedy in Majiang highlighted how much needed to be done to ensure children's rights and their protection.

The parents' failure to perform their duties as guardians had caused serious consequences, but it was not punishable under mainland law, he said.

"It's a legal loophole. The Law on Protection of Minors stipulates that parents and legal guardians should perform their duty as a guardian and take care of minors, but it is only a law of principles and not actionable," Lu said.

Parents in societies such as Hong Kong and the United States were punished if they left their young children unattended.

But on the mainland the parents were often regarded as the victims in such tragedies and even offered condolence money, as in the latest case, he said.

"The lesson learned in blood sends a warning shot to parents of minors that they need to perform that duty as guardians," Lu said. "Even without the punishment of the law they are subject to the punishment of conscience."