In China, tear­ful mother re­turns to see chil­dren who com­mit­ted mass sui­cide

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

The mother of four chil­dren who ap­par­ently com­mit­ted sui­cide in China af­ter they were left unat­tended by their par­ents for months spoke of her re­gret as she re­turned home, state me­dia re­ported Satur­day.

Ren Xifen had a “grim, tearfilled re­u­nion” with the sib­lings — a 13-year-old boy and his younger sis­ters — who died af­ter drink­ing pes­ti­cide, Xin­hua News Agency said.

“I did not shoul­der my re­spon­si­bil­ity for them,” 32-year-old Ren said, as she re­turned Fri­day to see their bod­ies at the fam­ily home in Bi­jie, in the re­mote south­west­ern prov­ince of Guizhou.

“I had to come back for a fi­nal look at them,” she added.

The chil­dren — the youngest aged 5 — were found by a vil­lager while strug­gling with con­vul­sions af­ter tak­ing the poi­son late Tues­day, ear­lier re­ports said.

They died soon af­ter and po­lice be­lieve it was sui­cide, in a case high­light­ing the plight of ru­ral chil­dren left be­hind by their par­ents who travel to the cities in search of work.

Ren told Xin­hua she had not con­tacted her chil­dren since leav­ing home in March last year to work at a toy fac­tory in the south­ern prov­ince of Guang­dong.

Feared Beat­ings from Hus­band

She left af­ter a “long and bit­ter dis­pute” with her hus­band Zhang Fangqi, the re­port said, adding that the fa­ther left the vil­lage in March, leav­ing his chil­dren be­hind.

Ren said she had not re­turned to see the chil­dren as she feared beat­ings from her hus­band.

She also de­scribed her only son as “very lov­able” and said he was dili­gent.

“I am il­lit­er­ate and can­not even write my own name. I wanted them to per­form well in school, un­like me, living a hard life,” she said.

The in­ci­dent sparked wide­spread public sym­pa­thy and prompted Chi­nese Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang on Fri­day to call for “an end to such tragedies,” vow­ing to pun­ish of­fi­cials who are lax in pro­vid­ing due as­sis­tance to fam­i­lies with sim­i­lar prob­lems. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been launched and sev­eral of­fi­cials have been suspended or re­moved from their po­si­tions.

Off­spring of China’s vast army of mi­grant work­ers, re­ferred to as “left be­hind chil­dren,” of­ten stay in their ru­ral homes, usu­ally with their aging grand­par­ents, partly be­cause ac­cess to kinder­gartens and schools in cities is ei­ther ex­tremely hard to ob­tain or ex­pen­sive. The coun­try has more than 60 mil­lion “left be­hind chil­dren” and nearly 3.4 per­cent of them live by them­selves, Xin­hua said, quot­ing a 2013 re­port by the All-China Women’s Fed­er­a­tion.

“In the case of Ren’s fam­ily, no grand­par­ents were still alive to watch the chil­dren,” the news agency said.

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