Beijing, June 26 (AFP): A three-year-old girl starved to death in China after police arrested her mother and left her locked at home with no food for 18 days, state press reported today.
The incident, in the southwestern city of Chengdu, has sparked public outrage and marks yet another incident of police misconduct, which has led to a nationwide debate about the unchecked power of law enforcers.
The child’s mother, a long-time drug addict who was arrested for theft on June 4, had told two deputy directors and other officers at the Jintang county Chengjiao police station to call her sister as the child was home alone, the Chengdu Shangbao newspaper and other media reports said.
The deputy directors, Wang Xin and Lu Xiaohui, asked officers to contact the child’s aunt.
When they failed to reach her, they asked a police station in the village where the child lived to help. That station assigned the task to a police cadet.
But the cadet also failed to get in touch with the aunt, and in a fatal mistake, forgot to inform the police station.
Both police stations neglected to check if anyone was taking care of the child.
The case was originally reported by local media as one of parental neglect, but after reporters dug deeper, they found that police were responsible.
Neighbours living near the girl’s home said the mother had a habit of locking the girl at home when she went out.
The child would often lean out of the window to socialise with neighbours. On June 4, however, the mother kept the girl in a rear bedroom and she was not able to ask for help.
No one realised she was dead until a neighbour smelled a foul odour and called police on June 21.
Since the case was first reported this week, people have bombarded Internet chatrooms with comments lashing out at the police and expressing shock over what happened.
“It’s too terrible, but how many more such incidents have not been exposed'” one person wrote on the sohu.com portal’s chatroom.
“Some things are even more frightening than SARS,” another wrote, referring to the deadly respiratory disease that caused panic in China.
Many people blamed the problem on the system, which allows police absolute authority. Farmers have complained they have to pay the police to investigate murder cases.
Chengdu's prosecutors have launched an investigation and detained the two police station deputy directors, according to the China News Service.
The director and another deputy director as well as two policemen were put on mandatory leave while the political commissar of Jintang county's police department, which oversees the police station, has resigned.
In Tuanjie village, where the child lived, the director of the police station was sacked and the cadet expelled from the academy, CNS said.
The incident follows public outrage over the case of Sun Zhigang, 27, who was beaten to death in March in Guangzhou after being arrested for not having a permit to live in the city.