Four children who fatally drank pesticide last week in China were apparently abandoned by their parents, and investigators now report they found a suicide note near the body of the oldest child, per the Guardian. The youngsters, whose ages ranged from 5 to 13 or 14, were said to have been distraught after their parents left them in their rural home in one of China's poorest provinces, while they sought work in urban areas. "I dream about death, and yet that dream never comes true," China News Service says the note read, per the Guardian. "Today it must finally come true." Meanwhile, China Premier Li Keqiang has demanded an inquiry, proclaiming "such a tragedy cannot be allowed to happen again." The Guardian notes there are about 60 million of these "left behind" children in China, abandoned when their parents leave them with relatives or on their own so they can find work in cities.
The New York Times points out China's rigid social-benefits system, which prevents children from receiving certain benefits, like health care and schooling, if they live outside their hometowns. In the case of these four children, their mother was said to be working in a toy factory in Guangdong province and had been afraid to come home for at least a year due to past domestic violence incidents, per both the Guardian and Xinhua; the Times cites a government report that says the kids were beaten by both parents, and that the father also "regularly" beat the mother. The father left the family home in March to find work elsewhere, the Guardian notes. The children's mother came back to see her children's bodies before they were cremated Friday and told Xinhua that "I did not shoulder my responsibility for them," adding to the China Youth Daily newspaper that "I have truly failed them. How I wish I could go with them." (Read more China stories.)