|"Because we are too menny."|
"The mother was the first to leave. Perhaps it was domestic abuse that drove her away. Or perhaps it was simply the hopelessness in Cizhu, a village in Guizhou, one of China’s poorest provinces.
One way or another, Ren Xifen abandoned home in 2013. Her husband, Zhang Fangqi, walked out shortly afterward to find work.
They left behind more than a broken marriage, however. Cooped up inside the dusty house were four children, ages 5 to 13. Without their parents, the four siblings would have to fend for themselves.
They didn’t last long.
For two years, the boy and his three younger sisters survived on little more than corn flour, according to one Chinese newspaper. Abandoned by their parents, the children’s personalities changed. They shut themselves inside the cluttered house and refused to open the door even to visiting relatives, the New York Times reported. About a month ago, the kids stopped going to school.
When the doors finally did open on Tuesday, tragedy came tumbling out.
At about 11 p.m., a passerby found the oldest child sprawled out in front of the family’s house, suffering convulsions, according to Agence France-Presse. Neighbors soon found the other three siblings in similar conditions nearby. All four eventually died.
The four children drank pesticide in an apparent suicide pact, Chinese state media reported.
“Thanks for your kindness. I know you mean well for us, but we should go now,” read a note left inside the home, according to the Guardian, citing Xinhua, China’s official news agency.
The horrific child suicides have provoked criticism of the absent parents.
Popular outrage has been checked, however, by how widespread the practice is in China of parents leaving their children at home while working in distant cities.
China has about 250 million migrant workers, most of whom are drawn from rural villages like Cizhu to mega cities where they can find manufacturing jobs, William Wan wrote in The Washington Post in 2013. Strict government rules and a shortage of schools in big cities mean that many parents leave their kids with grandparents or on their own.
There are roughly 61 million of these “left-behind children,” according to a 2010 China census. More than a third of all kids in rural China live without their parents. Nationwide, nearly 22 percent of Chinese kids have been left behind."