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WeChat Essay: “The RYB Kindergarten ‘Piston Action’ Child Abuse Case” (Translation)

“Dear readers, I really cannot write about the RYB Education kindergarten.“

Manya Koetse

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It is not often that a case causes so much online commotion in China as the recent exposure of alleged child abuse at the international RYB Education kindergarten in Beijing. Amid a flood of essays, posts, and images, here is a letter of one author representing the feelings of a larger public.

The RYB kindergarten abuse case has sparked rage and anger all across China. While police and local authorities are investigating the matter, netizens express their shock over the kindergarten’s intolerable situations revealed in several interviews and videos with parents.

Chinese social media platforms are flooding with essays, articles, posts, and images relating to this case.

Because the heated discussions have been met with wide online censorship, many netizens avoid using ‘RYB Education’ (the RYB abbreviation stands for Red Yellow Blue), and have started referring to the kindergarten as ‘The Three Colours’ (#三种颜色#).

Many Chinese netizens are also posting images of these ‘three colours’ in a circle; the core of the circle forming a black dot (‘black’ in Chinese also meaning ‘secretive’ or ‘illegal’). Some have started using this image as their profile picture on Weibo.

One essay that made its rounds on WeChat on November 24 addresses the collective indignation of many Chinese netizens – not just over the case itself, but also over the fact that interviews and articles on the topic have been pulled offline.

Here is a partial translation of this article*:


2017-11-24 Mo Yan

Yesterday, it was Thanksgiving Day in the United States. In our country many people also celebrated it. The big news that came out during Thanksgiving was the serious child abuse case at the RYB Kindergarten in Beijing’s Chaoyang District, in Xintiandi. This area is not far from my home in Beijing. We saw how the building was erected, and how they already started selling stocks at 7000 yuan [1060$] some ten years ago. The fact we had an international kindergarten stationed [there] was something that was promoted.

I could have never imagined how rotten this international kindergarten actually is – giving children medicine, injections, organizing naked health checks for the children, and making them stand and watch some “piston action” (damn, I can’t even name the dirty word here). This company was listed in North America; it was praised as “the New Oriental Kindergarten” by Xu Xiaoping; it was launched as an educational flower to the motherland!

01

Someone wrote an article on Douban [online platform], titled “Out Of All Child Abuse Cases, I Dread the One Where Parent’s Interviews are Deleted the Most.” In this article, the author writes:

“I would like to ask one question. Why would the videos of interviews with the victims’ parents be deleted, and why is it not allowed at all to discuss this matter on Zhihu [online discussion forum]? (…)

This is what I also want to ask. The author is a dinky, he has no relations whatsoever to the kindergarten. My child is all grown up now, the kindergarten he went to was very good. The abuse of children at a kindergarten also has nothing to do with me. However, there is that poem at the New England Holocaust Memorial I sympathize with.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Social justice needs to be protected by everyone. Anyone who stays indifferent because something is not a matter of concern to oneself is taking the side of the evildoer.

02

I did find the two interviews that were deleted online. One interview is that with a father, with a length of 4:50; the other is with a mother, with a length of 16:25.

In the interview with the father, he confirmed: 1. that some young kids were already taken to the hospital for medical check-ups and that they were diagnosed with anal fissures. They could not say what caused this. 2. that three small children were punished by standing still naked – two girls and one boy.

The mother who was interviewed was one of those three children who was stripped naked. It was also her child who was able to tell her this in a clear and complete way, exposing the incident.

It took place about two weeks ago. The child came home crying and said she was made to stand still as punishment. There was an ‘uncle’ who had threatened them: ‘If you do not obey, we’ll cut off your head and throw it in the bin.’ At that time, the child did not say anything about being undressed, and the mother did not pay much attention to the ‘uncle.’ The next day, the mom went to the headmaster, just hoping that the teachers would not punish nor threat the children. The headmaster flatly denied it, refusing to let the parent see video surveillance, and blamed it on the child’s wild imagination.

Then, a week ago, the child repeatedly talked about receiving injections. Perhaps it was because she’d been injected a few days in a row, that the child said: “Again, I am not sick, then why would they give me an injection?”

The mother asked the kindergarten about it, but they said there had been no injections. She asked her child again, and she said there was a physical examination. That there was a ‘grandpa doctor’ wearing clothes (..) and a naked ‘uncle doctor,’ and that the children who were picked were brought into a room by the teacher and were also naked while getting a health check.

Those children and the other children witnessed how the ‘uncle doctor’ did ‘piston action’ with a child. Perhaps the reason why she [the daughter] was not assaulted was because she struggled when they wanted to undress her, crying “don’t take off my clothes!”

The interviewed mother said: perhaps she was causing too much ruckus, and they lost their interest. The child later recalled (..) that it was the “mummy of the headmaster” who dressed the children.

There are no male teachers in the kindergarten. Then who are ‘uncle doctor’ and ‘grandpa doctor’?

03

That the Ctrip kindergarten articles were deleted, is probably due to the Shanghai Women’s Federation. That news about the Daxing fire news was deleted, is probably because of its large number of casualties. So what is the reason that news about the RYB Education case is being deleted?

(..)

If the little girl’s memories are completely true, the problem at hand is very grave. Then it would not be an individual action by a bad teacher – it would be an organized crime. Were those adult men free to participate in the “piston action” during those naked ‘health checkups’? If not, could we interpret this as some sort of commercial sex trade? And would the children, attending an international kindergarten with monthly fees of more than 5000 yuan [±760$], be their tools for making a profit?

(..)

04

Yesterday when I first started to see the articles on WeChat, some readers asked me to write [about this]. (..) This morning, I read a lot of media reports, including those from The Paper, Xinhua News, and other big media, and it made me really depressed. So I’ll write this for you:

“Dear readers, I really cannot write about the RYB Education kindergarten. First, there was Shanghai, now there’s Beijing. There are the persons in charge, and the headmaster, there are kindergarten teachers, (..), and now something even bigger has been exposed. The patterns of child abuse keep changing, and if we haven’t reached rock bottom then we’ll fall through the earth straight into hell.

So many comments have been written, it hurts. Every time we’re shocked, another incident blows up again. In the interview video, it was suggested that the headmaster couple had set up a unit for sexual assault (..) – of course, this needs to be determined by the relevant justice departments.

Perhaps it’s like ants trying to shake a tree, or like a cup of water on firewood, but I still want to call on the acceleration of legislation and the prohibition of child abuse. And to call for more punishment for sexual assault, and a reinstatement of the death penalty for criminals under these serious circumstances.

At the end of every sleepless night, there is always the next dawn. I can only support the children and their parents with my tears. Please forgive, because I really can not write.”

However, these unsophistication expressions and crude emotions were deleted within a second. I rewrote them from my memory. I re-wrote it three times in a row, and it was deleted three times in a row. Now, I cry as I watch the ending of the interview videos, and I also finish writing this article. As for the fate of this article, there’s no way of knowing.

After the parents jointly made their report to the police, the kindergarten (..) continued their classes and even organized a Thanksgiving celebration.

The Ministry of Education has already deployed and started a special investigation (..). The government of Chaoyang District in Beijing said that “if this case is found to be true, it will not be tolerated in any way.” Hopefully, the Central Discipline Inspection Commission can see this letter and do all they can to counter the toxic forces who endanger the physical and mental health of young children.”


 

Also read:
UPDATE: Press Release November 28

By Manya Koetse
@manyapan

* To read the Chinese: (致信中纪委:红黄蓝幼儿园性“活塞运动”虐童事件,什么人的罪恶试图掩盖) [Letter to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection: The RYB Kindergarten ‘Piston Action’ Child Abuse Case – Whose Crimes Are Being Concealed?], published on the xiaofuwang07 (零钱袋财经资讯) Wechat Channel.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    M

    November 25, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Seems like the weixin link is broken, ah you know why..

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China Insight

‘Divorce Day’: Queuing Up to Get Divorced after Chinese Spring Festival Holiday

The first day after the Spring Festival holiday is a busy one at the Bureau of Civil Affairs as couples are lining up to register a divorce.

Manya Koetse

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On the first day after the Chinese Spring Festival holiday (Jan. 21-27), there are long lines at the Civil Affairs Bureau in several places across China.

In Jiangxi, one resident shared how couples were queuing up to file for divorce on the first day the local Bureau of Civil Affairs reopened its doors. The lines were allegedly so long that people had to wait outside. Another video showed similar scenes at a local bureau in Anhui province. A third video showed crowded scenes of people lining up to register a divorce in Henan.

Chinese media accounts such as Toutiao News (@头条新闻), Vista (@Vista看天下), and Phoenix News (@凤凰周刊) all posted about the long divorce lines on Jan. 29, with one post about the topic receiving 70,000 likes.

“I thought they were lining up to get married, then I watched the news and saw they were actually lining up to get divorced..,” one commenter wrote. Others wondered if the busy lines for the divorce registration office might have something to do with the Covid outbreak over the past weeks, with some couples finding out that their partner actually is not very sympathetic when they are sick (also read this article).

The Chinese media outlets posting about the divorce registration lines mentioned how the ones who suffer the most in a divorce are the children, but many commenters did not agree with this statement, arguing that children suffer the most when parents stay together for the sake of the children and then continue fighting.

The divorce trend after the Chinese Lunar New Year has also been discussed in Chinese media and on social media in previous years (“春节后离婚潮”).

In Western countries, it is a known fact that divorce rates increase after Christmas time; the Monday after Christmas break is also dubbed “Divorce Day.” Some sources claim this is often due to quarrels that occur during Christmas and the financial pressures that come with the festive season.

It is arguably not much different for the Chinese New Year, when incidents taking place during family gatherings could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“The Spring Festival is like a big marriage minefield,” one commenter wrote: “When you return to your family home, it doesn’t just mean reuniting with your close relatives, there are also various tests of human relations and etiquette. A careless moment can cause conflicts between a married couple, leading to quarrels or even divorce. Is your marriage good or not? You will know during the Chinese New Year. After the New Year, there will be a wave of divorces.”

But the pandemic situation of the past years, in including the lockdowns, mental stress and financial difficulties, inescapably also play a role in the recent divorce wave.

In December of 2022, this Chinese blog article already predicted that more people would file for divorce after the Chinese New Year since the end of the holiday would coincide with the end of the Covid peak. In times of lockdown, and especially in times of sickness, couples easily get annoyed with each other and their love is put to the test.

Earlier this month, some Chinese media also reported that three years after the pandemic began, cities were already seeing a “divorce wave” (#疫情后一线城市离婚预约爆满#).

Some netizens comment that the ‘cool-off’ period that was introduced to allow couples a month’s time to think and revoke their divorce does not seem to have much effect.

Some people sympathize with those standing in line: “Celebrating the New Year can bring about a war in some families. The divorce season has started.”

By Manya Koetse 

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China Insight

Less Education, More Babies? Discussions Surrounding China’s Falling Birth Rate

Another year, another drop in birth rates: according to the latest statistics, China’s 2022 saw more deaths than births.

Manya Koetse

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China’s falling birth rates have been a topic of discussion for years. With the latest statistics marking another record low in birth rates, Chinese experts look for ways to motivate couples to have (more) children at an earlier age.

Official yearbook data, released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics (国家统计局) on Jan. 17, 2023, shows that the total Chinese mainland population was 1.4118 billion by late 2022. Last year, 9.56 million people were born, while 10.41 million people died. The population in 2022 fell by 850,000 from 2021.

As reported by The New York Times, according to the latest data, 2022 was not just the first time deaths outnumbered births in China since the Great Leap Forward in 1960s, it was also one of the worst performance years for the Chinese economy since 1976.

China’s dropping birth rates have been a topic of discussion for years. The annual statistics that were published three years ago, in January 2020, showed that China’s birth rate in 2019 had fallen to its lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In that year, the birth rate was 10.48 per thousand, and 14.65 million babies were born in mainland China.

The data from later years showed that just 12 million babies were born in 2020 (8.5 births per thousand) and that only 10.6 million babies were born in 2021 – a rate of 7.52 births per thousand. The latest number is another record low.

Over recent years, various trends in Chinese (online) media have highlighted the social issues behind China’s dropping marriage and birth rates. The rising costs of living and the fact that Chinese younger generations “prefer to marry late,” are often mentioned as an explanation for China’s decline in marriage rates and the interrelated lowering birth rates.

But China’s so-called ‘leftover’ single men have also been pointed out as a “crisis,” with China having millions of more men than women of marriageable age – partly a consequence of the one-child policy combined with a traditional preference for baby boys.

For years, China’s ‘leftover women’ were also mentioned as a reason for the country’s declining marriage rates; China’s well-educated, career-oriented, urban single women were singled out for making it harder for China’s unmarried men to find a wife because of their ‘choice’ to postpone marriage and family life. This increased the pressure on China’s single women to get married, including facing an associated social stigma, which has become a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media.

Chinese couples are allowed to have two children since 2015, three children since 2021, and it was later widely reported that parents with more than three children would also no longer receive fines according to a draft law amendment.

Celebrating the ‘three child policy’ (image via Weibo.com).

But the new regulations have not had the desired effect, with many couples simply not wanting a second child or being unable to afford it. The pandemic and zero Covid policy also haven’t exactly helped to boost China’s birth rates.

On social media, official media put out the two hashtags “9.56 Million People born in China in 2022” and “In 2022, China’s Population Decreased by 850,000 people” (#2022中国全年出生人口956万人#, #2022年中国人口减少85万人#). Among commenters, the latest data have led to various discussions.

Some are about the costs of living:

  • There’s so much to consider if you want to have a child, the costs are just too high, and I wouldn’t be able to support it.”

Others are about increasing social pressure:

  • These days there’s too much pressure on men to get married, they’re not confident and at ease anymore.”

And then there are those who see no problem in a population drop:

  • It’s only natural for the population to decline, how can you expect it to be like the old days when people would have five or six kids; the people like my grandma in my hometown all come from families with at least four kids.”
  • This country of 1,5 billion people is constantly worried about going extinct, people are crazy!
  • The Information Age doesn’t need so many people anyway.”

 

HOW TO BOOST BIRTH RATES?

 

But while netizens’ opinions on the matter vary, experts, politicians, and media outlets focus on the topic of how China’s birth rates can be boosted.

Various places across China have already announced policies to encourage families to raise more than one child, including prolonged maternity leave, increased maternity allowances, and support for home purchases.

One hashtag that was popular on Weibo this week was about a statement made by the billionaire businessman Zong Qinghou (宗庆后), CEO of leading beverage company Wahaha Group (哇哈哈).

Zong is a proponent of offering affordable housing to young people. In a video that has since gone viral – and which was a segment from a CCTV interview, – Zong talks about his low-cost housing project and also called on China’s young people to find a partner, get married earlier and have children sooner to “contribute” to the country’s birth rates (#宗庆后希望年轻人早点结婚生娃#).

The hashtag triggered many replies. Most of them criticized Zong’s remarks, and many commenters expressed that they did not like being told to marry and have kids. Some also remarked how Zong’s own forty-something daughter allegedly is not married herself.

It is not the first time for an opinion leader or expert to frame marriage and childbirth as a “contribution” to the country.  In 2015, the Chinese scholar Yang Zao (杨早) wrote an essay in which he explained China’s falling birth rates as “a clash between individualist and collectivist values.” At the time, he wrote: “For the country, for society, for parents, can’t you let go a bit of personal happiness? After all, isn’t marriage key to solving China’s present-day problems?”

Another hashtag that went viral this week is “Could Shortening Education Time Increase Birth Rates?” (#缩短教育时间能提高生育率吗#).

The topic relates to an article published by Zhejiang News on Jan. 16, 2023, about China’s Education and Population Report (中国教育和人口报告). In this report, James Jianzhang Liang (梁建章, a demographer who is better known as the Ctrip CEO) and other authors suggest that shortening the duration of education might help boost the country’s birth rates. The authors suggest that the middle and elementary education time could be cut down by two years by eliminating the Senior High School Entrance Examination (Zhongkao 中考).

There are two ways in which this idea might benefit China’s birth rates. On the one hand, the authors argue, China’s highly competitive education system puts a lot of pressure on children and financial strain on their parents, who struggle to invest as much time and money into their children’s education as they can. The pressure is real: the exam results during the last year of junior high school are of crucial importance regarding admission to the preferred senior high school, which also profoundly influences education after high school and students’ future careers. So the reasoning is that couples are more likely to have children if the financial burdens on parents are alleviated.

Should we have kids or not? Cartoon posted on Weibo.com.

On the other hand, the authors argue that when people finish school two years earlier, this will give them more time to start their life after graduation, making it more likely for women to have children at an earlier age.

One post about this topic, in which netizens were asked how they felt about the idea, received over 225,000 likes and nearly 13,000 comments.

A typical reply suggested that all these ‘experts’ should have more children themselves, reiterating a widespread criticism of opinion makers and experts who often do not practice what they preach.

Others expressed that they did not think that China’s lower birth rates were related to education, while others felt that a shortened education time would be a step back for China.

Some also criticized Zhejiang News. The media outlet itself indicated that the idea of shortening school years to boost fertility rates was like treating people as “tools.” But some commenters said: “The sad thing is not that people are treated as tools, the sad thing is that it took you this long to realize it.”

There are more Weibo bloggers and commenters suggesting that people paid a heavy price for the One Child policy that was implemented between 1980-2015, and that its effects will have a significant impact on society for a long time to come. After decades of only allowing couples to have one child, the shift to now introducing policies to encourage people to have more children is a strange reality.

One popular blogger (@峰哥亡命天涯) posted a photo that showed an old One Child Policy slogan on a building [少生优生,幸福一生 ‘Have fewer but healthier babies and a happier life‘], and he wrote: “The effects of family planning have contributed to contemporary times and bring benefits for future centuries!”

Another poster said they felt bad for the one-child generation born in the 1980s:

I really feel sorry for those born in the 1980s. They’ve always dealt with problems in attending school from young to old, then when they were all grown up faced problems with the job [market], then the issue of marrying and the bride price, and most importantly the high price of housing and caring for the elderly – the 1980s generation is carrying the burden. Those born in the 1970s can no longer have children, and those born after ’95 or 2000 are not giving birth. So we can only squeeze the post-1980s (..) Let them finally take a breather.”

By Manya Koetse 
with contributions by Zilan Qian

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