Police probe 'sibling suicides'
Police in China are investigating the apparent suicides of four young siblings aged five to 13 who had been abandoned by their parents in one of the country's poorest regions.
State media said the four were found at home on the outskirts of the city of Bijie after drinking liquid pesticide.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the children's mother abandoned them three years ago and their father moved away to find work. It said they had dropped out of school and their only sustenance was cornflour ground from last year's crop.
Bijie, in impoverished Guizhou province, was the scene of a similar tragedy almost three years ago when five runaway boys asphyxiated after lighting a fire in a rubbish bin where they were sheltering from the cold.
Attempts to resuscitate the children failed and they were declared dead in hospital.
The recent cases have renewed concern over "left-behind" rural children who are often placed in the care of aged grandparents while their fathers and mothers seek work in far-away cities, often returning only once a year.
Faced with underfunded schools and inadequate social services, such children are considered highly vulnerable to emotional, physical and sexual abuse on top of loneliness, boredom and hopelessness.
China has been widely lauded for raising 600 million mostly rural people out of poverty since the institution of economic reforms in the early 1980s. Despite that, more than 82 million rural Chinese continue to live below the poverty line.