In a report posted on February 9th, the Global Times, China’s own bastion of journalistic integrity, discussed the current state of criminal background checks on foreign teachers in China. Entitled “To Catch a Predator,” the report also includes some pretty severe allegations of sexual misconduct from a British teacher currently working at an international school in Beijing.
It is of note that this teacher requested anonymity:
The teacher said he found it ‘disgusting and astounding’ when he learned some of his colleagues were in relationships with girls aged 16 to 18 at the school.
“I am certain there are teachers…who may be a danger to children. In conversation with other teachers, several relationships between teachers and sixth-form girls were mentioned, but as a new teacher…I didn’t know specifics,” he said.
In order to judge the validity of this claim, a couple things have to be acknowledged: first off, this is the Global Times we’re talking about here. The same mouthpiece that tried to pass off an article with the headline “Nazi Space Aliens Rule US” as a legitimate news story, that unabashedly defended recent online crackdowns as “protecting free speech”, and the people who actually published the following paragraph:
Hey girls! Still can’t find the perfect Mr Right to bring to upcoming Christmas parties? Go and grab a gay man! He is fun, supportive, caring and trustworthy. He is like your stylist handbag, your must-have accessory.
In other words, these are some relevant organs that can’t quite be trusted.
Secondly, the only evidence of this teacher-student dating comes from one quote by an anonymous source, which isn’t the most reliable basis to stake a claim. BeijingKids, a blog catering to families living in Beijing, said in its response that “the article can also be read in the context of the largely anti-foreign agenda that emerged after the Robinson case, despite there being scant evidence that Chinese teachers have to go through the same background checks as foreigners.”
All issues of validity aside, the problem of incomplete background checks for foreign teachers has warranted greater levels of attention than it currently has received. According to figures released by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) in 2013, around 180,000 foreign experts employed in the cultural and educational sectors come to China each year – yet only 30,000 of these experts have “foreign expert certificates.”
A teaching director surnamed Guo at a Beijing English-language training school said the reason background checks are not as thorough as they should be is mainly due to schools’ “urgent need of teachers” while having “too many students.”
On the other hand, new visa restrictions implemented July 1, 2013 require all applicants to provide a police clearance certificate from their home country. According to Oscar Holland at BeijingKids, who has recently been through the visa process himself, these new restrictions are “well enforced.”
While criminal background checks on foreign teachers may not be a new issue, it is no doubt important that people, especially parents and students in China, are kept aware of how serious it is. With that said, given the issue’s sensitivity, it seems fair that only after the most thorough and complete research and fact-checking should fingers be pointed at potential perpetrators. Whether or not you think he’s a disgusting child molester, Woody Allen did make a good and relevant point in his recent response in The New York Times to resurfaced accusations against him of child molestation:
No one wants to discourage abuse victims from speaking out, but one must bear in mind that sometimes there are people who are falsely accused and that is also a terribly destructive thing.
By Alex Stevens