For the second straight day, an alleged child abuse scandal at an expensive private kindergarten in Beijing is the biggest story on the Chinese internet as censors struggle to deal with the fallout from sickening accusations of employees drugging and sexually molesting children.
Outraged parents protested outside of the RYB Education kindergarten in Chaoyang District again today, demanding that the school come clean about what it has been doing to their kids. After discovering needle marks on their children’s arms, legs, and buttocks, parents have accused the kindergarten of giving their kids injections, feeding them mysterious white pills, and punishing them by having them stand naked for extended periods of time.
In a video that has since been deleted, one mother of a 3-year-old even claims that her child told her that kids at the school were given regular “health checkups” by an “uncle and grandpa doctor” in which they were made to stand naked while one of the doctors was nude as well.
On Friday morning, RYB Education, one of the country’s biggest early education chains with hundreds of schools across China, issued a statement on Weibo responding to the scandal. In the statement, RYB apologized for the “severe anxiety” that this incident has brought upon parents and society at large, noting that the teachers in question have been suspended and that the school is cooperating with police, providing them with surveillance materials.
However, RYB also adds that it has lodged a police report against some who have “engaged in making false accusations and framing against us” without elaborating on what those false accusations are, or what they are being framed for.
Underneath the statement, there are more than 100,000 comments, most expressing their disgust that the school believes that it was the one that has been wronged.
“False accusations? Framing? Who is framing you? If the kids were happy and healthy what parent would engage in such activity?” reads one comment with more than 120,000 likes and which also uses the Chinese idiom “the thief who cried thief” (恶人先告状).
Meanwhile, Chinese tabloid the Global Times has published a piece declaring that if all accusations are true then the kindergarten employees should be “severely punished,” however, if the rumors turn out to be false, than those who started them should also be located and punished accordingly.
The massive scandal has placed Chinese censors in a difficult predicament as they confront a towering wave of outrage coming from middle-class parents concerned about the safety of their children, particularly in the wake of a similarly shocking child abuse scandal at a Shanghai daycare.
As shown on Free Weibo, stories and comments about RYB Education are being heavily censored; however, it still remains the hottest topic on the social media network by far with numerous threads wracking up thousands of comments as prominent commentators and celebs have also spoken up about the issue.
I agree the tenor has shifted w this kindergarten abuse story. Middle-class parents, usually with one child, are an important political constituency. https://t.co/dG1sh3fjtf
— Sui-Lee Wee 黄瑞黎 (@suilee) November 24, 2017
Meanwhile, though the story has been reported extensively online with liveblogs and video interviews with angry parents, apparently coverage of the scandal is much more muted in print:
V v little on it in today's papers though pic.twitter.com/4B3V0g1thi
— Tom Phillips (@tomphillipsin) November 24, 2017
As netizens wait for the results of a police investigation into the kindergarten, some have suggested that they ought to go ahead and start doing what they can to punish RYB. The education chain was listed on the New York Stock Exchange back in September and had been doing rather well, something that is likely to change when the market opens back up after Thanksgiving break.
Chinese investors call for "punitive" shorting of #RYBeducation , Nasdaq-listed parent company of kindergarten chain under bone-chilling accusations of child abuse, some expect other US-listed Chinese education firms to be affected as well
— Wang Feng (@ulywang) November 24, 2017