Two 'left behind' children in China die in suspected murder

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Two children were killed in a suspected homicide, authorities said, the latest incident in the same area of south-west China to befall "left behind" children whose parents seek employment far from home.

In many rural parts of China, children are left in villages to be looked after by grandparents or other relatives while their parents seek work in the booming cities.

They often are unable to join their parents because they lack the paperwork needed to live in urban areas, attend schools and get access to health services.

A 15-year-old girl and her 12-year-old brother were found dead on Tuesday at their home in a village near Bijie, the same area of the province of Guizhou where four "left behind"children died in June after drinking pesticide, the Nayong county government said in a statement posted online on Tuesday.

The mother of the two children had died and the father had left home on Sunday for work in a different city, leaving them with another 17-year-old daughter who went to see a relative on Monday night and did not return home, the statement said.

An ongoing police investigation showed their deaths were"linked to homicide" it said.

More than 60 million Chinese children in rural areas are left with relatives, although 3.4 percent live alone, the official Xinhua new agency reported on Wednesday, citing a 2013 report by the All-China Women's Federation.

The plight of such children has drawn national attention.

Premier Li Keqiang ordered an investigation after the June incident in which the four children apparently committed suicide.

In 2012, five homeless children in Bijie died of carbon monoxide poisoning after lighting a fire while seeking shelter in a rubbish bin.

China aims for 60 per cent of the population of almost 1.4 billion to be living in cities by 2020, turning millions of rural dwellers into consumers who could be a driving force for the world's second-largest economy.

Chinese leaders have pledged to loosen their grip on residence registration, or hukou, to try to remove obstacles to the urbanization drive. Such registrations prevent migrant workers and their families from getting access to education and social welfare outside their home villages.