US President Donald Trump’s “state visit-plus” was somewhat overshadowed in China last week by a pair of videos from a Shanghai daycare center that outraged parents across the country, launching a massive scandal that continues to send out shock waves across the Middle Kingdom.
In the first video, a female staff member is seen forcefully wrenching a schoolbag from a little girl before pushing her and watching her stumble backwards, hit her head on a table, and fall to the ground. Two other workers watch as this happens and fail to do anything.
In the second video, a child is seen crying after being fed something out of a tube by the same female staff member. Parents later discovered that the substance was wasabi.
“My daughter is only 17 months old and you fed her half a tube of wasabi in half an hour… she pooped six times in an hour!” one parent cried out after watching the disturbing surveillance footage.
The nursery later held a press conference where furious parents attacked the female worker.
Before vengefully force-feeding her wasabi.
On stage, the worker desperately tried to apologize to parents, kowtowing and crying. She was later confirmed to be not a teacher at the daycare, but a janitor. When asked why a janitor would be allowed to discipline the kids, daycare center manager Zhang Baobao replied that all staff members at the center were asked to “proactively” take care of the children.
The daycare center is located inside the Shanghai headquarters building of Ctrip, a leading Chinese travel agency. The company established the center in early 2016 for the benefit of its employees. It cared for more than a hundred children, all below the age of three. Following the scandal, Ctrip has fired the employees directly involved and closed down the daycare as authorities in Shanghai have opened up an investigation. In the meantime, parents at the company who need to take care of their young children have been offered two weeks paid leave.
Most media reports have accused Ctrip of negligence, urging the government to do more to strengthen regulations governing daycare services in China. One article from China’s official Xinhua news agency alleges that China’s daycare service industry is mostly propelled by capitalist motives, advocating that the government step in to protect the interests of consumers, along with the safety of children.
But, ironically, the Ctrip daycare center is actually run by a third-party service provider called “For the Children,” which is affiliated with the magazine Modern Family, owned by the Shanghai Women’s Federation of Changning District — a government agency.
In its response to the scandal, Ctrip has said that back in January 2016, the Women’s Federation of Shanghai paid a visit to its headquarters to inquire about a partnership to establish a daycare center for employees. After shopping around and comparing different daycare service providers, Ctrip made the decision to work with For The Children because it had come highly recommended by the women’s federation.
The center opened in February 2016 for just five days before being abruptly shut down by the Education Bureau of Changning District because it had not acquired the proper licenses. It reopened later that year and had been in business until this latest scandal broke out. In the aftermath, the Education Bureau has said that the daycare still had not been registered and had no license. How it managed to operate without a license for so long remains unknown.
On Wednesday, the Shanghai Municipal Working Committee on Children and Women announced the preliminary results of its investigation, charging the daycare with a “severe case of child abuse” that had caused a “tremendous negative impact on society.” The committee also said that the daycare’s manager had been detained and the editor-in-chief of Modern Family had been removed from his post.
Earlier, Ctrip announced that two of the company’s vice presidents had also been suspended pending an internal investigation.
While backlash to the scandal continues to rage, discussion is being suppressed somewhat on social media by government censors. China Digitial Times has published an internal directive which tells those working at the “City Information and Online News Management Department” to downplay the daycare mistreatment incident and close down comment sections which discuss it.
Meanwhile, party tabloid the Global Times appears to believe that the scandal could have some larger, more serious ramifications for Chinese society, worrying that the “dire shortage of licensed childcare facilities in China” may negatively impact China’s efforts to increase its birth rate — two child policy or not.
Of course, as they grow up, children in China don’t get much safer. This year, we’ve seen kindergartners kicked, primary-schoolers dragged by their hair, and middle-schoolers whipped. However, the fact that this kind of abuse can happen at a nursery in Shanghai that’s under a company like Ctrip has many urban, middle-class parents more spooked than ever.
By Alex Tang
[Images via Sina]