Source: Xinhua/Shanghai Daily | 2012-11-21 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
EIGHT officials in Bijie City in Guizhou Province were sacked or suspended from jobs after five boys were found dead in a dumpster, killed by carbon monoxide as they huddled inside and burned charcoal for warmth.
The five boys, nine to 13 years old, were found dead on Friday along with charcoal ashes in the trash bin, 20 kilometers from their village.
Those punished include four officials in charge of education and civil affairs - two vice directors of the district where the kids perished, and two officials in the children's hometown - and two school principals, the city's Party committee said yesterday.
Two deputy heads of the district were suspended pending a further probe.
The officials punished had not done anything to help the boys or had not even noticed that they had been missing from home and school for weeks, officials said.
The boys were cousins from the same extended family, surnamed Tao, and their fathers were three brothers.
It drizzled on Thursday night and the temperature dropped to a low of 6 degrees Celsius. The boys got in the dumpster to get warm, officials said.
Not seen for 3 weeks
Tao Jinyou, the father of one of the boys, said the five children had not been seen for three weeks after going out to play. The parents didn't know where to find them and their absence was not reported to police, officials said.
The four sons of those two fathers were supposed to be under the care of an aging, blind grandmother who had difficulty caring for herself.
The five cousins often loitered in town together, said Tao. "Sometimes they didn't even come home at night."
Tao, who works on a farm in the area, said his son quit school two years ago and sometimes helped him herd cattle. "At first, I sent him back to school by force. But every time he'd run away again, so I knew it was hopeless."
Four of the five kids were drop-outs who had performed poorly at school and the last one in school was often absent, said another father, Tao Yuanwu.
Despite teachers' efforts, the boys refused to return to school.
Their deaths spurred an outburst of grief from the public, who in Internet posts blamed the children's caregivers and local government for failing to take care of them.
Children left behind
Bijie, with a population of 7 million, is perched on craggy mountains. Many local peasants have taken jobs in bigger cities, leaving their children in the custody of grandparents or distant relatives.
"We need to put the well-being of left-behind children at the top of our agenda," said Hu Jihong, deputy mayor of Bijie. "In fact, many uncared-for youngsters are wandering about the streets - some even run away to other provinces."
A day before the deaths, China's new Party chief, Xi Jinping, stressed children's well-being.
"People want their children to have sound growth, have good jobs and lead a more enjoyable life," he told reporters on Thursday, when the newly elected members of the Standing Committee of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee Political Bureau made a group debut.
Shanghai-based academic Fu Ping said he saw a pressing need for laws to safeguard children's welfare and provide governmental aid to homeless minors. "Such laws will help ensure adequate funding to provide for needy children."
Official figures show that China has over 150,000 street children, about half of whom left home over family disputes.