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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. Avatar

    M

    November 25, 2017 at 9:43 am

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

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About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

“I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

“This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

“It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

 

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More Than Just a Visit: Explaining the Chinese ‘Cuànfǎng’

‘Cuànfǎng’ became a popular word on Chinese social media and in official Chinese discourse this year. But what is it?

Jin Luo

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Since Pelosi’s stopover in Taiwan, the word ‘cuànfǎng’ has been all over Chinese social media to refer to this controversial visit. But ‘cuànfǎng’ is more than just ‘visiting’ alone. Jin Luo explains.

It was a sleepless night for many Chinese people when U.S. House Speaker Pelosi flew to Taiwan on August 2nd of 2022. A new Chinese word created in recent years, cuànfǎng (窜访) appeared in the official statement that was issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry at 11 pm that night, and subsequently it appeared all over social media.

Meanwhile, a pop song released more than 30 years ago titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (“今夜你会不会来”) suddenly became a Weibo hot topic before it was taken offline. What is this word lost in translation, and why did people suddenly get nostalgic over an old romantic song?

 
Cuànfǎng: A ‘Sneaky Visit’
 

Here is the original wording in Chinese and the official translation to English from the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the evening on 2 August:

In disregard of China’s strong opposition and diplomatic discontent, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited China’s Taiwan region” (“美国国会众议长佩洛西不顾中方强烈反对和严正交涉,窜访中国台湾地区.”) The word ‘visited’ in Chinese that is used here is “cuànfǎng” 窜访.

While the English verb “visit” is a neutral word by itself, the Chinese “cuànfǎng” 窜访 has much stronger connotations. According to the Wiktionary, the word is a derogatory, officialese way to say “to visit.” But it is not an easy word to translate, as there is no direct equivalent in English, and both the literal and implied meaning of the word need to be understood.

Cuànfǎng is actually a compound word: cuàn 窜 refers to fleeing, escaping, hiding, or running away; fǎng 访 refers to inquiring, seeking, or visiting.

Cuan as a compound character (Sohu).

To make matters more complicated, cuàn by itself is also a compound character. It is written as ‘竄’ in traditional Chinese: the top radical ‘穴’ means ‘hole,’ and the lower part is the character ‘鼠’ which means ‘mouse.’ The character, having the shape of a mouse hiding in a hole, therefore has the meaning of ‘hiding’ and ‘escaping.’

The origins of the character ‘cuan’ explained, image via Sohu.com.

The mouse or rat is an animal that is more often associated with negative things in Chinese culture. They are often considered sneaky, dirty, running around everywhere, and able to reproduce quickly. With mice so often carrying a negative association, cuàn ‘窜’ also refers to a kind of hiding and escaping that is negative or objectionable.

The second character fǎng 访 is a neutral word that simply means “to visit.”

At the New York Times, Chris Buckley captured the underlying meaning of this word in writing: “The Chinese word used in the official statements for ‘visit’ — cuanfang — connotes a sneaky or illicit encounter, not an aboveboard meeting.”

 
The Evolution of Cuànfǎng
 

Although it is a relatively new word, cuànfǎng already existed before the Pelosi incident and was not created in light of this controversial visit.

Since the word’s first appearance, translators have had some difficulties in properly translating the term into different languages.

Research papers in translation studies and international relations in China suggested that cuànfǎng is a “new derogatory term invented in recent years, specifically for the purpose of maintaining national security and unity, and condemning and exposing the national separatists” and “demonstrated the big wisdom of Chinese diplomatic discourse users; vividly described the image of the separatists, that they go on the run sneakily, just like thieves and mice” (source, in Chinese).

Other sources interpret it as “the unjust, improper visit conducted in order to reach hidden political agenda, to agitate and peddle the separatist ideas,” and:

1. You went somewhere where you were not supposed to go;
2. The visit was not accepted or welcomed by the (Chinese) government;
3. The purpose is to shake justice and create conflicts
” (source, in Chinese).

Cuàn was mainly meant to add an emotional aspect to the term and shows the contempt of the person who uses it.

Image via Wainao.

The word was first prominently used in Chinese official discourse when the Foreign Ministry in 2006 referred to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Israel. Since cuàn has the meaning of fleeing, it is especially suitable when referring to political dissidents who went into exile overseas.

Since then, it has been used again for further visits of the Dalai Lama to other countries (US 2014, Mongolia 2017), as well as for Rebiya Kadeer, Lee Teng-hui, Shinzo Abe, Joshua Wong, and others.

Although it is clear that the term is not only applied to Chinese dissidents, it is generally applied to those who conducted visits that were perceived to be hostile towards China, with Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit serving as a clear example.

Since the Dalai Lama has been living outside of China and conducted numerous visits to other countries, cuànfǎng was previously mostly used in this context until Pelosi’s visit, which ended up being good for more than 80% of the search results of cuànfǎng on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

If cuànfǎng is a word with such strong emotional connotations, why was it simply translated as “visit” in official English-language documents? Some say it is because of the mere difficulty to translate this word, while others say it is the routine sanitization of English translations by the Foreign Ministry.

David Gitter, president of the Center for Advanced China Research based in Washington D.C., said that the external goal of Beijing can be different from the internal goal towards the nationalist domestic audiences, and that “more accurate yet counterproductive translations … [often] breach normal diplomatic language.”

At this point, it remains up for debate whether this is a linguistic constraint or a political choice.

 
Tonight, Are You Coming or Not?
 

While the term cuànfǎng has been widely used in official discourse, it has also become a popular online word. Chinese netizens seemed to be as passionate as the Chinese Foreign Ministry – and perhaps even more so –  in condemning Pelosi’s Taiwan visit and demanding radical countermeasures.

Chinese netizens were watching the entire event unfold with mixed feelings – on the one hand, there was a strong sense of patriotism and anger, on the other hand, the massive attention to the event also turned it into something that was almost as exciting as a celebrity drama.

On that specific evening of Pelosi’s nearing arrival in Taipei, Chinese netizens were doing two things: watching real-time tracking of Pelosi’s flight, and listening to a classic pop song released in 1991 titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (今夜你会不会来) (video). Back in the previous century, Hong Kong singer Leon Lai expressed the emotions of someone waiting for his lover to arrive in this melodic song, singing:

“你是否愿意为我停留

Would you be willing to stay for me

今夜你来告诉我

Tonight, you tell me

你是否愿意陪我走过我的梦

Are you willing to accompany me through my dream?

我的所有

My everything

(Chorus)

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

如果你的心已经离开

If your heart has left already

我宁愿没有未来

I would rather not have a future

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

别让我所有的等待

Don’t let all my wait

变成一片空白

Go all in vain

 

In the middle of the uncertainty about whether Pelosi would come to Taiwan or not, this song served as entertainment for netizens and became a “collective carnival” of people jokingly applying the song to Pelosi, turning her into a ‘mysterious lover’ that might or might not show up. (Later, some were unable to play the song anymore, although it remains unclear if this was due to geographic restrictions or because the song was actually taken offline by censors.)

“Taiwan has been preparing for your cuànfǎng ‘sneaky visit’, are you coming or not tonight?” some netizens wrote, combining the title song with the cuànfǎng term. In doing so, Pelosi became both a ‘sneaky mouse’ and ‘mysterious lover’, both a target of condemnation and subject of fun and banter.

All jokes and cuànfǎng references aside, Pelosi did end up realizing that visit, and its aftermath, including a second Taiwan visit by a U.S. congressional delegation, has had a substantial impact on U.S.-China relations that were already strained before the move.

Will there be more cuànfǎng to Taiwan? It’s likely not an issue of if, but when. For next time, at least we’ve got cuànfǎng covered.

 

By Jin Luo 

Featured image by Alexa from Pixabay

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.
 

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