Hubei authorities on Friday said they would launch an investigation into the “unnatural deaths” of several children in a welfare institute after online rumours exposed alleged abuses, a news portal reported.
Officials of Hubei provincial Civil Affairs Bureau said they had sent a panel, led by Director Chen of Shiyan Department of Civil Affairs, to Shiyan Child Welfare Institute on Thursday to investigate allegations that seven children had “frozen to death”, news portal voc.com.cn  reported.
Last week, a post titled “Who is abusing disabled orphans?” surfaced on major forums in China, sparking outrage. An internet user, calling himself “Yun Tian” said in the post that staff of Shiyan Child Welfare Institute told him that a total of seven children had frozen to death in the winter of 2012.
Staff told me the institute did not provide any heating “even on the coldest day” because the money was needed for fees, which were paid to the Civil Affairs Bureau, Yun wrote in the post.
Yun also said he saw a girl with bruises and scratches on her face. "I do not dare to say who assaulted me. Ms. Wang will beat me to death if I do," he quoted the girl telling him. Yun did not elaborate on who Ms. Wang was in the post.
Responding to the rumours, Director Chen on Friday confirmed seven children in the institution had died between October 2012 and January 2013, according to a preliminary investigation. But he denied they froze to death.
Of the seven children that died, Chen told voc.com, four had serious congenital heart problems, one was born without an anus, one was suffering from paralysis of the brain, and the other was a baby born prematurely. Some of the children died in hospital and some on the way to hospital, but none froze to death in the institute, he claimed.
Chen also noted that heating was available in every room, and would operate automatically when temperatures dropped below 12 degrees Celsius.
Chan said the panel would conduct a thorough investigation into the institute’s daily tasks. “No matter what the outcome, we will place more emphasis on taking care of our children in the future,” he said.