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Children deaths lead to calls for better guardianship


20:28, February 21, 2013

GUIYANG, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- A string of recent children deaths in China have raised questions about minors' protection and guardianship,especially in rural and poor areas.

Five unsupervised boys aged between four and six suffocated to death in a deserted tobacco barn in Majiang county in southwest China's Guizhou Province, police confirmed on Wednesday.

Each of the five families have been given 22,000 yuan and 100 kilograms of rice by the local government as consolation.

About three months ago in the same province, five abandoned children were found dead in a dumpster where they lit a fire to keep warm on a cold night in the city of Bijie.

According to Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociology professor with Beijing-based Renmin University of China, these tragedies have revealed that the children's parents were lacking the awareness of good guardianship and were not fulfilling their duties.

Parents or guardians, who are usually busy with farm work or working in cities, leave their children with the grandparents. The children are often left to play by themselves or with others, which is quite common in China's rural areas, especially during holidays.

Children go out to play after waking up and return home when they feel hungry or tired. "Just like little birds, the kids learn almost everything by themselves," said one villager in Majiang.

Chen Changhai, a chief psychiatrist working in the Psychological Counseling Center of Guiyang City, said besides offering basic living conditions, parents should also educate children on how to protect themselves.

"To help the children raise their awareness of self-protection and keeping away from dangers is the responsibility of guardians," said Chen.

Experts also suggest better guardianship should be guaranteed by better understanding of laws.

Chinese laws on the protection of minors outline guardians' responsibilities and obligations. However, there are no specific details on how the guardians should fulfill them, said Qin Qianhong, a law professor with Wuhan University.

"Detailed rules and regulations will help guardians be aware of their duties and effectively prevent children from accidents or injuries," Qin added.

Wu Dahua, president of the Guizhou Academy of Social Sciences and a law professor, believed those who fail to perform their responsibilities in protecting minors should be punished by law.

"People usually think parents are also victims themselves because they have lost children in accidents. However, the parents should be held accountable for their dereliction of duty," said Wu.

For example, some state laws in the United States rule that parents could face jail if their children die after being locked in a car.

"Children should be treated as individuals, rather than the private property of their parents," added Wu.

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