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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 editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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  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

Looking at Your Phone While Crossing the Road Will Now Cost You Money in Zhejiang

Pedestrians looking at their phones while crossing the road are getting a red light in Zhejiang.

Manya Koetse

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Zhejiang Province in eastern China has recently launched a new policy: pedestrians crossing the road while looking at their phone risk getting a 50 RMB ($7) fine.

The policy has been attracting the attention of netizens on Chinese social media, where the so-called “Bowed head clan” (dītóuzú 低头族) – a slang word for smartphone-addicted people – has been a recurring hot topic.

People paying more attention to their phone than watching traffic while crossing the road can lead to very dangerous situations. Some graphic videos making their rounds on Weibo today show security camera footage of people getting run over by cars while looking at their phone.

The majority of people responding to the hashtag “Should people be fined for looking down to their phone while crossing the road?” (#低头玩手机过马路该罚款吗#) agree that this kind of behaviour is a risk to traffic safety, but some wonder if a small fine would be effective in combating this problem.

Some cities in China have introduced sidewalks with a “phone lane” and “no phone lane” over previous years, with Chongqing being the first city to do so in 2014.

Mobile phone sidewalk in Chonqgqing. Source https://tech.qq.com

As of earlier this year, the Pedestrian Council of Australia is also looking to implement a law that makes it possible to fine pedestrians who cross the road while looking at their phones.

In Honolulu, the ‘distracted walking law’ already makes it illegal for people to be distracted by their cellphones while walking in a crosswalk.

“Fine them!”, some commenters on Weibo say: “And also fine those people using their phone while driving their electric bicycles!”

“I’m not sure about the fine,” another person says: “I only know I bumped into a tree today walking looking at my phone..”

For many commenters, however, the issue is a no-brainer: “Just don’t use your phone while crossing the road. Personal safety comes first.”

Also read: The ‘Bowed Head Clan’ (低头族): Mother Watches Phone While Son Drowns in Pool

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Jialing Xie.

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

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Arts & Entertainment

‘American Factory’ Sparks Debate on Weibo: Pro-China Views and Critical Perspectives

‘American Factory’ stirs online discussions in China.

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Award-winning documentary American Factory is not just sparking conversations in the English-language social media sphere. The film is also igniting discussions in the PRC, where pro-China views are trumpeted, while some critical perspectives are being censored.

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Even as China posts its lowest industrial output growth since 2002, Weibo’s ongoing reaction to Netflix documentary American Factory is rife with declarations of the Chinese manufacturing sector’s impending victory over its US rival. This, however, is not the full story.

The first documentary distributed by Higher Ground Productions, owned by former US President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, American Factory painted a damning picture of Trump’s protectionist policies.

US manufacturing cannot keep up with the brute efficiency of its Chinese competitors. The story of a shuttering American factory revived by Chinese investment and an influx of Chinese workers, opening up a Pandora’s Box of cultural clashes, paints a telling, but pessimistic, picture of the current strategic conflict between the two superpowers, from the ground-up.

Image via Netflix.

Despite the Great Firewall, Chinese netizens found ways to watch the documentary, that was made by Ohio filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert. Temporary links to streaming and subtitle services litter the Chinese Internet, making any accurate count of total mainland viewership nigh-impossible. However, one indication of the film’s popularity among mainlanders was the 259,000 views for a trailer posted on Bilibili.

One likely reason for netizens’ interest is that it neatly plays into Chinese state media rhetoric on the US-China trade war.

The inevitability of China’s rise up the global supply chain (and a corresponding decline on the US side) is a recurring theme in opinion pieces penned by the likes of Xinhua and Global Times, but also an increasingly louder cacophony of bloggers.

 

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing.”

 

One Chinese company (Wind资讯) posted on Weibo that “what Obama means in this film, in a very oblique way, is that anti-globalization will produce a lose-lose scenario.”

The official Weibo account of Zhisland, a Chinese networking platform for entrepreneurs around the world (@正和岛标准) posted a review of the Netflix film titled: “Behind the Popularity of American Factory: Time Might Not Be on America’s Side” (“《美国工厂》走红背后:时间,或许真的不在美国那边了“).

It warns the audience right off the bat to “not assume that this film will promote cooperation between China and the United States. In contrast, it will surely stir up mixed feelings among both audiences.”

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing,” Zhisland writes. The article argues that China will win out due to its lower labor costs, lack of trade unions, and more disciplined managerial styles. “It’s an uneven playing field,” the author continues: “Time may not be on America’s side.”

Toward the end, the author claims: “We are about to enter a new era in which China will gradually become the most dominant player in the global marketplace.”

The fact that many on Weibo shared these kinds of pieces as a reaction to the documentary suggests there is confirmation bias at work here. As is common on Weibo and other social media, comments on the pieces like the above simply rattle unsubstantiated claims, frequently descending into ad hominems.

Another Weibo user (@用户Mr.立早) adds comments when sharing the above article: “The American workers repeat Trump’s mantra, but won’t act on it. They’ve been idling for almost a century. They’re hopeless.”

 

“American Factory tells you: separate the US economy from China, and the US will go bankrupt.”

 

Chinese state media also chimed in on how American Factory proved their most important talking points on the ongoing US-China trade conflict.

Xinmin Evening News, an official newspaper run by the Communist Party’s Shanghai Committee, published an article by Wu Jian called “American Factory Tells You: Separate the US Economy from China, and the US Will Go Bankrupt” (“《美国工厂》告诉你:将美国经济从中国分离,美国会破产“).

In this piece, Jian claims that “in the age of globalization, ties between China and the US cannot be cut. Using high tariffs to force U. S. manufacturing return to the States… is simply not realistic. Separate the US economy from China, and the U.S. will go bankrupt.”

The article was also shared widely on Weibo. Thepaper.cn, an online news site affiliated with Shanghai United Media Group, published a review titled “American Factory: The Things that Are Spelled Out and the Things that are Implied” (“《美国工厂》:那些说出来的,和没有说的“).

The author, Xu Le, writes: “What struck me most about the film was the look on the faces of the American workers. All of them … had the same burnt-out expression… Their faces reminded me of photos of people in the late Qing Dynasty. That dull expression reflects a civilization in decline.”

“We’re a family at Fuyao” American workers listen to a rosy speech from their new bosses.

In the film, When American foremen visit a factory run by glass manufacturer Fuyao in China, they are alarmed to see Chinese workers picking up glass shards without safety glasses or cut-resistant gloves.

A Chinese worker picks up glass shards with minimal safety equipment, shocking his American co-workers.

Xu comments: “Why is it that Chinese workers are able to put up with even more drudgery while being paid far less than their American counterparts? This is something we Chinese are very familiar with.”

 

“Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

 

Qin Hui, professor of history at Tsinghua University, once argued that China’s economic growth isn’t because of economic liberalism or government oversight, but because of China’s refusal to guarantee certain basic human rights.

In Maoist China, the state stripped the underprivileged of all political power in the name of the greater good dictated by socialist dogma. Post-Mao China continues to exploit the underprivileged, but now for monetary gain. He called it China’s “advantage” of “low human rights.”

Despite the nationalism sentiment fanned by American Factory, it has also provoked reflection on China’s advantage of low human rights summarized by Qin Hui.

Weibo user ‘Zhi21’ (@ZHI2i), a recent college graduate, writes on Weibo: “I just finished an internship at a factory. I worked 12 hours a day. More than 11 hours of every shift was spent on my feet without stopping, just to keep up with the assembly line. It didn’t make sense to me. After watching American Factory, I feel like American workers are lucky to only work 8 hours a day. That’s why the production costs are higher in the States. They pay too much attention to whether or not workers are comfortable.”

Another Weibo blogger (@GhostSaDNesS) notes that “in American Factory, Fuyao employees believe that to work is to live. They defend the interests of capitalists while they are actively exploited. Unions in the West chose human rights, Chinese capitalists chose profit, and Chinese workers have no choice at all.”

Some of these posts were apparently censored; threads that displayed as having over 200 comments only showed 12, and users complained that their posts were being deleted or made invisible to other users by Weibo censors. “They didn’t give any explanation,” one blogger wrote: ” I only expressed that I felt sorry for the people at the bottom. I didn’t question the system. I didn’t ask to change society.”

Views like that of @Crimmy_Excelsior (“I was confused. Which country is the capitalist one and which country is the socialist one?“) are apparently sensitive enough to be taken offline – they touch upon the tension between the CCP’s espousal of Marxist-Leninism and the plight faced by hundreds of millions of Chinese that have their working conditions driven down by capitalist markets.

Many users don’t buy into nationalist interpretations of the film, and argue that economic gain achieved at the expense of human rights is shameful. @陈生大王 raises a poignant question: “This is a glorious time for China, but I hope this film inspires you to think about who you really are as an individual. Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

“The cost of the glory” is derived from a quip popular on China’s internet. The Chinese government often urges its citizens to rally together, using the rhetoric, “We must win this trade war at all cost.” Some netizens then twisted the phrase, saying, “We must win this trade war at all cost, and we later find out that we are the cost.”

 

“China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.”

 

Even among those in favor of China’s controversial work ethics, there have been concerns over the status quo. Earlier this year, engineers in the tech industry publicly aired their grievances about their “996” lifestyle. The term refers to a high-pressure work schedule of 9am to 9pm, six days a week. This is the kind of life workers in Fuyao are living, with no hope of improvement – they are that the company would find a replacement in no time, making any form of complaining moot.

Recent events in mainland China only increase the credibility of this representation. Factory workers at Jasic, a maker of welding machinery in Shenzhen, attempted to start a union last year. All those involved were fired. A number of college students and activists who actively supported the workers were detained and persecuted.

According to the “China Labor Movement Report (2015-2017)” by China Labor Bulletin (a NGO based in Hong Kong that promotes and defends workers’ rights in the People’s Republic of China) “intensification of social conflicts, including labor-capital conflicts, has crossed a tipping point, and directly threatens the legitimacy of the regime.”

More conspicuously, there are netizens that don’t buy the narrative that Chinese workers are innately “tougher” than their American counterparts. As user @胡尕峰 observes: “(In the film), a new Chinese CEO explains to his fellow Chinese that Americans have been encouraged too much growing up, and can’t take criticism. Chinese born after 2000 have been raised the same way! In my circle of friends, some mothers nearly faint when their babies are finally able to poop. Is China going to end up the same as America?”

American Factory’s objective portrayal of cultural shocks between American and Chinese workforces clearly generated thoughtful reflections and incisive criticism from a sizeable number of netizens, while also being another reason for Chinese state media to highlight the rise of China in the global market.

The chairman of Fuyao Group, Cao Dewang, made headlines this week with the quote: “China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.” “We indeed worked hard for it,” some commenters agreed: “That’s definitely true.”

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Edited by Eduardo Baptista

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