Eight Chinese officials have been fired or suspended after five boys died in a rubbish bin after suffocating on fumes from charcoal they burned to stay warm, according to state-run media.
The bodies of the boys, aged between 9 and 13, were found by a trash collector on Friday in Bijie in China’s southwestern Guizhou province, Xinhua reported.
They are believed to have died the night before, as rain fell and temperatures plunged to as low as six degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit).
Six officials have lost their jobs, including the principals of two local schools and four government officials in charge of education and civil affairs in Qixingguan district where Bijie is located. Two deputy heads from the same departments were also suspended pending an investigation.
Users on China’s social media platforms expressed shock and disgust, with some questioning how society could have allowed such young children to fall through the cracks.
One user on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, wrote: “China is supposedly an intermediate developed country but still can’t protect its own children. At the age when they should be enjoying a happy childhood these poor kids are wandering and dying on the streets.” (@Datounaonao)
Another said: “I just can’t believe this is a story happening in my country today…where are the “relevant departments” doing on this? And “where are the kids’ parents? Why give birth to children and then abandon them?” (@Dongsir)
Days after their deaths, details of the boys’ lives emerged in local press. They all belonged to the same extended family, the sons of three brothers.
Two of the fathers, Tao Yuanwu and Tao Xueyuan, were rural migrants, who had moved from Guizhou to the special economic zone of Shenzhen near the Hong Kong border, where they worked as rubbish collectors.
The other father, Tao Jinyou, a poor man who was said to work long hours tending fields, told Xinhua that he and his wife paid little attention to their own son, let alone their nephews.
“Sometimes they didn’t even come home at night,” he said. Persistent truants, the boys were said to have been missing for three weeks before they were found dead. “At first, I sent (my son) back to school by force,” Tao said. “But every time he’d run away again, so I knew it was hopeless.”
View full report here.