• China's top health authority has urged its local counterparts to intensify their care for the country's vulnerable groups.

China's top health authority has urged its local counterparts to intensify their care for the country's vulnerable groups. (Photo : Reuters)

After the death of four left-behind siblings in Bijie, Guizhou Province, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called the attention of concerned departments to ensure the safety and welfare of such children.

The four, who are at the ages five to 13 years old, consumed pesticide at their home.

The siblings have been without parental care beginning March this year when their father, Zhang Fangqi, left for a job far from their home. Their mother, Ren Xifen, left in March last year after having a fight with her husband.

Like Us on Facebook

In light of the incident, Li said that China's temporary assistance system must be efficiently and effectively run so that it may be put in place should a left-behind case arise.

The premier added that concerned departments should boost their efforts in investigating the inaction of some officials and punish those who are responsible.

Two officials of the Tiankan Township of Qixingguan District, where the siblings particularly reside, were already dismissed. They are Nie Zongxian, the Party secretary, and Chen Minfu, the township head.

Meanwhile, other concerned officials have also been suspended, including Yang Qian, the district government's deputy head; Ye Rong, head of the district's education bureau; and Xue Tingmeng, an official of the said township.

Meanwhile, the local government has already got in touch with the mother and said that representatives will pick her up. The father, on the other hand, said to the media that he already knew about the news and will go back home.

Two and a half years ago, five street children were found dead in the trash in Bijie. They died from carbon monoxide poisoning after lighting a fire to keep them warm on the eve of Nov. 15, 2012.

After the incident, the city government said that it would launch an annual special fund worth 60 million yuan for the left-behind children.

City mayor Chen Changxu also said that it would make an archive system dedicated to keeping tack of all children without parental care.

However, a social policy researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Tang Jun, said that the city's measures were a failure.

According to him, the Tuesday incident "showed that the government intervention measures have failed. The role of parents cannot be replaced, and the best way is to ensure that "the children go with their parents as they migrate to other cities to work."

"For decades, we have merely required a workforce from the migrant workers. If we do not provide them with more social benefits, similar cases will take place again and again," he added.

Left-behind children have a higher susceptibility to psychological problems, Li Yifei, deputy director of the Scientific Communication and Education Research Center at Beijing Normal University, remarked.

"Intervention would also be difficult because normally the children would not display abnormal behavior, even if you try to ask questions. However, they generally evade or react strongly to questions about their parents," Li pointed out.

Li also emphasized the crucial role of educators.

"Teachers should receive psychological training to monitor the mental state of children. The key is to identify the children who might have mental problems and ensure that there will be intervention in time," he suggested.

"However, there are few teachers or psychological workers in regions where the left-behind children are concentrated," he further stressed.