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Court opens session on lawsuit against govts in Guizhou for left-behind children fund disclosure

By Jiang Jie (People's Daily Online)    13:31, June 28, 2016
Court opens session on lawsuit against govts in Guizhou for left-behind children fund disclosure
(Plaintiff Zhou Xiaoyun stands in front of the Guiyang Intermediate People's Court. Photo: Courtesy of Zhou Xiaoyun)

Local governments of southwestern China’s Guizhou province and its Bijie city stood in court on Tuesday to face charges of not publicly disclosing audit information related to their fund for left-behind children, which allegedly is worth up to 177 million yuan.

The provincial and city government were sued by Zhou Xiaoyun, a former investigative reporter, in December 2015, after Bijie city refused to disclose information regarding a fund set up in 2012 to help left-behind children, a phrase referring to those left alone or in the care of elderly relatives in rural areas when their parents went to work in urban areas.

Poverty-stricken Bijie vowed in 2012 to appropriate some 60 million yuan every year for the fund, after five street children died from carbon monoxide poisoning while burning charcoal to keep warm in a roadside dumpster in the city, reported China National Radio.

According to information disclosed on the Bijie financial bureau’s website last July, the fund received more than 177 million yuan between 2013 and 2015. Some 11.6 million yuan was then used for welfare payments or for supplies in 2013 and 2014, while another 47.4 million was appropriated to improve children’s living conditions. The bureau released no further details regarding the fund.

Zhou reportedly applied twice for detailed information disclosure but both of these requests ended with irrelevant responses. He then decided to take it to court.

The lawsuit was heard for the first time by the Intermediate People’s Court of Guiyang on Tuesday.

"It is stipulated by Chinese laws and regulations that governments should voluntarily make public information related to public welfare and government obligations. It is therefore groundless for Bijie government to explain that they failed to disclose such information because I cannot justify my request to demand disclosure," Zhou told People's Daily Online.

Zhou stressed that the governments would have failed to fulfill their duty to supervise the funds if there was no recorded information regarding the fund use.

Citing documents from Bijie government, Zhou added that he doubted the fund did not exist as several district-level governments have failed to appropriate money for the fund. Instead, the fund may have been using the education budget, he noted.

China is home to more than 60 million children left behind in rural areas, often with their grandparents. According to a 2013 report released by the All-China Women's Federation, nearly 3.4 percent of these children live alone. These children easily fall victim to such tragedies as murder, human trafficking and suicide, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

In 2015, China witnessed a number of crimes victimizing this vulnerable group.

In June 2015, four left-behind children in one family - aged 5 to 13 - died after drinking pesticide at their home in a village in Bijie. Two teenage siblings left-behind were murdered in a village in Bijie in August while their father and elder sister were not at home, media reported.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Jiang Jie,Bianji)

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