BEIJING (AP) — Chinese police on Thursday were investigating the apparent suicides of four young siblings aged five to 13 who had been abandoned by their parents in one of the country's poorest regions.
The four were found Wednesday night at home in a village on the outskirts of the city of Bijie after ingesting liquid pesticide, state media reported. Attempts to resuscitate them failed and they were declared dead at hospital.
The children's mother had abandoned them three years ago and their father had moved away to find work, the official Xinhua News Agency said. They had dropped out of school a month before and their only sustenance was corn flour ground from last year's crop, Xinhua said.
Bijie, in impoverished Guizhou province, was the scene of a similar tragedy almost three years ago when five runaway boys asphyxiated after lighting a fire in a garbage bin where they were sheltering from the cold.
Those cases have renewed concern over "left-behind" rural children who are often placed in the care of aged grandparents while their fathers and mothers seek work in far-away cities, often returning only once a year.
Faced with underfunded schools and inadequate social services, such children are considered highly vulnerable to emotional, physical and sexual abuse on top of loneliness, boredom and hopelessness.
China has been widely lauded for raising 600 million mostly rural people out of poverty since the institution of economic reforms in the early 1980s. Despite that, more than 82 million rural Chinese continue to live below the poverty line, set by China at 2,300 yuan ($376) or less, or $1 a day.