Officials sacked over suicide of four abandoned children who drank pesticide

Local government staff, educators punished over deaths of four children left at home alone, as media debate why they killed themselves

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 June, 2015, 5:24pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 June, 2015, 11:41pm

A number of local officials have been punished in the case of four siblings who killed themselves by drinking pesticide in impoverished Guizhou province.

Three officials, including the education bureau director of Bijie’s Qixingguan district, were suspended for investigation, while two village officials, including its party secretary, were removed from office, the district government said on Friday

Six others, including the principal and a teacher from the primary school where three of the children studied, have been punished, it added.

The decision was announced after Premier Li Keqiang instructed local officials to take the work of government social services seriously to avoid similar tragedies. Any official who failed to fulfil his duties would be held accountable, he said.

The tragedy has renewed concerns on the mainland over migrant workers’ offspring, known as “left-behind children”. Mainland media have argued that parental neglect, rather than dire poverty, was to blame for the siblings’ suicides.

Police investigations showed the four children – a brother and three younger sisters, aged between five and 13 – swallowed pesticide in their three-storey house in Bijie’s Cizu village, the local government said. The four died in hospital.

Investigators found a suicide note penned by the brother, CCTV reported.

“Thank you for being nice to me … I’ve planned this for a long time, and today is the time to leave,” his note read.

Thank you for being nice to me … I’ve planned this for a long time
Brother's suicide note 

The father, identified as Zhang Fangqi, left in March to work in Guangdong, leaving the children unattended although he wired money home periodically, Xinhua previously reported.

The mother, Ren Xifen, left the family last year after she was allegedly beaten by Zhang.

Ren had been contacted, according to the local government, while Zhang wrote on his microblog yesterday that he “was aware of the incident” and would be back home today, the Legal Evening News reported.

Questions have been raised about whether the children took their lives because of their poverty, but villagers and their relatives denied the claims.

Village officials said the father and son had since 2012 been covered by the government’s minimum living security scheme, which gave the family about 1,000 yuan (HK$1,260) every three months. Police also found a debit card in the house with more than 3,500 yuan in the account.

Those who knew the children said they were victims of domestic violence.

A relative said the boy was once so badly beaten by Zhang that his left arm was fractured and right ear was almost ripped off, reported. Ren also once stripped the boy and made him stand under the sun for hours, the relative said.

Villagers said the children rarely interacted with their neighbours.

More than 20 children are estimated to be “left behind” in the village, which has a population of about 2,400, said. The local government said it had launched a survey on all minors in the village, to work towards helping them with their difficulties.