Five Chinese women lawyers are suing the Nanjing government after it refused to make public details of the tragic case of two girls, a one-year-old and a three-year-old, whose decomposing bodies were found on June 21 in their home in the city's Jiangning district.
The girls' mother Yue Yan, who, according to media reports had a history of drug abuse and long absences from home, was convicted of "intentional homicide" by Nanjing's Jiangning District People's Court on Sept. 18.
The cases sparked outrage among China's netizens, who have also urged the government to issue stricter guidelines to stop parents abandoning their children at home.
Xu Ying, one of the legal team who brought the case against the government, told RFA's Mandarin Service in a recent interview that the case was hampered by a lack of clear legislation:
"There are no clear rules in current law stating which administrative bodies are qualified to take away the status of a carer or guardian. Under freedom of information, these bodies should create paperwork in the course of carrying out their duties, and they should make this available to those who apply to see it."
She said the lawyers hoped to use the case as a means of heightening awareness of the seriousness of such cases.
"The most recent version of the Young Persons Protection Law is very vague and broad, and it is hard to implement, because there are no clear clauses dictating which government departments have these sorts of responsibilities.
She said the case aimed to establish whether or not the relevant departments had stripped the girls' mother Yue Yan of her parental rights and appointed a guardian.
"If not, why not? That is what we are requesting under this freedom of information application. But they have repeatedly responded by saying they are unable to provide this information. There are two cases which we are bringing [on Tuesday]: one is suing the Jiangning district police department and neighborhood committee, and the other is suing the civil affairs bureau and the All China Women's Federation (ACWF). But the case against the civil affairs bureau wasn't accepted [by the court]. Currently, the case against the ACWF is pending administrative review, so it hasn't come to court yet."
Lawyer Wang Yu said the government had failed in its duty to protect children and vulnerable groups, which had resulted in the tragedy of the girls' starvation at home.
"The children had no one to depend on, and suffered deprivation of love and care from the person who should have protected them. The government had a duty to take on that responsibility, and save them. I am hoping that this lawsuit will have some effect and prompt government departments to shoulder this responsibility. A lot of lawyers have taken on this work, and that has already had an impact."
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.