Only two weeks after an abuse scandal at a Shanghai daycare center, where toddlers were fed wasabi as punishment, another explosive child abuse story swept the Chinese internet over the last few days. This time, the center of the scandal is a high-end kindergarten in Beijing’s Chaoyang District. The facility is operated by RYB (Red, Yellow, Blue) Education, a New York Stock Exchange–listed company that runs about 500 kindergartens directly and 1,300 affiliated learning centers in more than 300 cities and towns across the country.
The details of the scandal are chilling.
Allegations in unconfirmed media reports and social media posts say:
- Children were forced to eat tablets which their teachers told them would help them sleep.
- Parents found needle marks on their children’s arms, thighs, and buttocks, but do not know what was injected.
- Multiple “health checks” in the nude by “grandpa doctor” and “uncle doctor” were alleged by one mother to have been forced on her three-year-old.
The scandal ignited an unprecedented avalanche of outrage on the Chinese internet, with many condemning the kindergarten teachers and accusing the government of negligence in education facilities. Here’s a timeline of the scandal:
- The story erupts on Chinese social media that more than a dozen parents had filed a report at the local police station against the RYB kindergarten in Chaoyang District, Beijing.
- The police establish an investigation.
- Celebrities weigh in to call for a thorough investigation, though mostly in a subtle way.
- Several photos are widely circulated on social media that show a group of angry parents protesting outside the kindergarten, demanding to talk to the school’s principal and access footage captured by surveillance cameras inside the facility. The Beijing Youth Daily reports that the police have already confiscated the relevant footage.
- Discussions about the case on various social media platforms are strictly censored. According to What’s on Weibo, the hashtag “Beijing’s RYB Centre Suspected of Child Abuse” (#北京红黄蓝涉嫌虐童#) was a trending topic on Weibo on November 23, but then became inaccessible. Videos of parents being interviewed are also removed from most online media.
- A 31-year-old Beijing woman is arrested for spreading rumors that the school’s principal has a military background, and that the Tiger Regiment 老虎团, a military branch stationed in the district, was associated with sexual abuse allegations. An employee of the Chaoyang District education committee announces that three teachers have been suspended.
- In an online poll conducted on the social media platform Sina Weibo, more than 80 percent of respondents say they would not trust expensive and prestigious kindergartens anymore.
- RYB Education’s stock price plummets almost 40 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.
- Pingan Chaoyang, the official Weibo account of the Chaoyang police, releases a notice that a teacher at the kindergarten, surnamed Liu, has been arrested, and that the investigation is still underway. A spokesperson from the Chaoyang government says that the kindergarten’s principal has been suspended.
- RYB Education say they have launched a comprehensive examination of all 1,800 facilities they operate in China, vowing to ensure all teachers are properly qualified.
- Beijing’s education commission announces that regular inspectors will be assigned to every kindergarten in Beijing.
- Two more internet users are detained by the police for spreading “fake news” about the case.
- More allegations of child abuse at other education facilities surface. Mysterious needle marks and suspicious white pills are also involved.
Public anger hasn’t been properly addressed
Despite censorship, a tidal wave of criticism and queries continues to grow. Below is a selection of translations of online comments that represent the collective reaction to the scandal, gathered from Chinese social media.
- A three-year-old kid would never make up fake allegations of being molested. I need to know who are ‘grandpa doctor’ and ‘uncle doctor.’
- It’s hard to believe this happened in Beijing, the capital, the city closest to the central government. What about rural areas where parents are usually away from their kids to work in big cities and education facilities are regulated more loosely?
- Five days into the investigation, only one teacher has been detained. Don’t tell me this is the final result.
- I’ve had enough of hearing how much emphasis the government would place on this case. I just want death penalties for everyone involved in the crime.
- The cruel lesson I learned from this news is that no matter how proud you are of belonging to the middle class, sending your kids to private, expensive, and well-known schools will never guarantee their safety and health.