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China debates killing of children by poor mother

Yang Gailan's home Photo: People's Daily

A mother who axed and poisoned her four children to death has triggered a discussion over poverty and wealth gap in China on social media.

The mother, named Yang Gailan, from Northwestern China’s impoverished Gansu province did so after her family was allegedly denied their low-income allowance.

Yang, 28, killed herself by drinking pesticide right after she killed her children on August 26. Li Keying, her husband, also took poison on September 4 after burying the children.

Yang and her family lived in the village of Agushan in Kangle county, and were one of the poorest families there. According to media reports, half of the villagers lived below the poverty line.

Yang's motive remains unclear, but the family had been denied the government low-income allowance as the village committee said their annual per person income surpassed the benchmark 2,300 yuan ($343) poverty line, according to the Global Times.

The Shanghai TV reported that Yang's father Yang Manshan and her grandmother Yan Lanfang told its reporter they didn't bribe the village cadres, so the village canceled their "low-income family" status, according to Global Times.

On Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, the issue triggered a wave of discussion under hashtag of Gansu Yang Gailan Killed Her Own Family with many lamenting poverty and income gap between the country’s coastal regions and western inland.

“When a person commits a crime for bread, then society is to blame,” one wrote on Weibo.

“It is poverty that pushes the 28-year-old mother to a dead corner, and destroys a whole family. Some may argue that the government has given allowance to them, but who can make sure that they get the allowance,” one said.

“The one who needed help the most failed to get help. When the last hope of life is lost, there is only one choice,” another said.

More than one week after reports on the issue, a story titled “Ants in a Prosperous Society” went viral on the Internet on Monday. The original story, which was deleted hours after it was spread on WeChat, referred to Yang and those who struggle with poverty in China as ants in a prosperous society and attributed the tragedy to people’s indifference to low-income groups and the country’s failure in a number of social policies. It also suggested improving social mobility and transferring more resources to poverty alleviation.

However, some on Weibo argued that there should be no excuse for a person to kill her or his own children, and such a cruel behavior should be attributed to a “twisted mentality” of Yang and should not be forgiven.

“Poverty is not only an economic issue but also refers to the poverty of a person’s mind,” one noted.

“There must be lots of reasons behind such a gruesome behavior, but no matter what the reason is, the fact that Yang, as a mother, killed her own children in the cruelest way is just terrible,” another user lamented, “That you cannot change your own life, doesn’t mean children cannot either.”

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