GUIZHOU – Last week in Bijie, in the mountainous Guizhou Province, five street children who’d taken refuge from the cold in a large rubbish bin were found dead of suffocation. It has sparked national outrage over the usually hidden issue of China’s countless children forced to live on the street.
Sina news reported that the five boys, who ranged in age from seven to 13 years old, were found lifeless by a scavenger, who’d opened the lid of the 1.5 by 1.5 meter dumpster. Foul play has been ruled out. The most likely cause of death is that they may have lit some charcoal to get warm, which killed them with carbon monoxide poisoning inside the closed bin.
Several well-known Chinese bloggers pointed out the miserable irony of the tragedy in contrast with the slogans of a “well-off society” from the just concluded National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
According to the United Daily News, China has approximately 1 to 1.5 million street children. Gradually, more stories are being told about these children living in misery, though the death of five children is a rare event indeed.
According to a study conducted by the Guangzhou Children Protection Center in cooperation with the Guangzhou Medical College, there are four major categories of street children: 48% of them run away from home to escape family problems such poverty, divorced parents, or physical abuse.
Other causes such as imagining to “work and earn money” or to “see the world” account for 20% of the wanderers. Another 10% are lost, lured or trafficked children, the United Daily news reported.
Though they are on average between 14 and 15 years old, and the majority of them have received less than four years of elementary education. They either beg on the streets or work illicitly. Some wind up the tools of fraudsters, pickpockets or begging professionals, under the control of gangs with the use of violence or drugs.
Up to now China has no real street children rescue center. Local government civil affairs departments, the public security, the urban management bureau, everybody turns a blind eye to these children left on their own. As much as boosting the overall economic growth rate, China’s incoming leaders must find a way to take care of its most vulnerable.