A viral video of a children’s fight club has triggered both outrage and praise from online communities in China, as well as a police investigation.The video, which spread across the Chinese internet like wildfire on Monday, stars two 14-year-old boys, Xiao Long and Xiao Wu, fighting in an MMA cage in front of a large crowd. Understandably, this somewhat shocking scene has elicited quite a response.
The young teenagers are members of the Enbo Club, a mixed martial arts (MMA) organization based in Chengdu. It appears that the boys are just two of nearly 400 impoverished children from the southwestern region of China who have been adopted by the club and trained in commercial cage fighting.
The video, which was edited and released by Enbo, also includes interviews with the boys, who explain that the fight club is a better alternative to the life that they would have at home. Additionally, Enbo’s founder discusses how he not only provides the orphans with a better childhood environment, but that he also puts them on career paths to become global MMA competitors or bodyguards.
Some of the heartbreaking sound bites which can be found in the video include the two boys detailing their fractured families and lack of stability in their home life. When describing the comforts which Enbo provides, Xiao Wu said that “There is everything here — food, clothes and a place to live… There is beef and eggs here, but at home I can only eat potatoes.” Both children said that they aspired to be MMA champions and hope to continue to fight for the club.
Enbo is known in the southwestern region of China for adopting orphaned or disenfranchised children and training them to fight. The club’s founder claims that he comes from a similar background as many of his pupils, and that he takes in orphans in order to prevent them from having to live on the streets. While Enbo claims to be acting honorably, many online critics have said that the coaches are merely profiting off having children beat each other up.
The BBC highlights one concerned netizen who commented on the video: “They should be at school, and yet have entered into the profit-driven world. What’s being implanted into them is that the rules of survival means that the winner takes all. This is deplorable; where are the authorities in all this?”
But other viewers are more sympathetic. One commenter on the video wrote: “Learning to fight from a young age offers a way out for the future, I don’t think there’s anything majorly wrong.”
No matter the opinion of the online community, we doubt that Enbo anticipated the reaction they received when they released the MMA footage for promotional purposes. But local authorities are conducting an investigation into the club, and its conduct, which has been training young orphans and disenfranchised boys for the past 16 years. According to SCMP, education officials from Liangshan have already been sent to the club to retrieve any under-aged boys who should still be in school. The club states that it is cooperating fully with the investigation.
Enbo’s founder also explains in the footage that all of the adoptions were legal and had been approved by the government. According to Tong Xiaojun, from the China Youth University of Political Studies, the club would have to meet the standards set by civil affairs officials in order to be able to legally adopt the children. So, if the investigation uncovers any unlawful behavior, it could imply that the local authorities were complicit.
Even if the investigation does not reveal any blatant criminal activity, the real issue at hand still remains. The horrible truth is that Xiao Wu and Xiao Long are only two of the approximately 61 million “left-behind” children in China. Their situation forces us to ask ourselves: is it fair that any child be put in a situation where fighting is the “best” option?
Watch Enbo’s full video below:
By Emma Abrams
[Images via CGTN]
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