After finding itself engulfed in the most explosive scandal to hit Chinese society in some time, one of China’s biggest early education chains has issued an apology following a police investigation which “only” found that a kindergarten teacher at one of its Beijing schools had been pricking children with sewing needles.
RYB Education expressed its shame and deepest apologies for the teacher’s misconduct, stating that it has no right to beg forgiveness, but will take immediate, meaningful action to address parents’ concerns. The company, which owns hundreds of kindergartens across the country, has promised a zero-tolerance policy regarding child abuse and has also pledged to upgrade its surveillance systems.
The 22-year-old teacher who is accused of punishing kids for not going to sleep during naptime by sticking them with sewing needles has been fired by RYB and arrested by police.
Still, the police statement issued late on Tuesday night must have come as a serious relief for RYB. While pricking toddlers with needles is bad, the kindergarten located in Beijing’s Chaoyang district had been accused of far worse crimes by parents — including drugging and sexually abusing children.
However, following an investigation, Chaoyang police said that parents had fabricated all of these claims, arresting one woman and criticizing another for spreading false information.
In the wake of the police report, already heavily censored discussion about the kindergarten scandal on Chinese social media has been completely shut down with comments turned off on stories about the investigation and RYB’s apology.
However, it certainly seems like Chinese netizens aren’t buying the report’s findings. On Twitter, many have expressed their utter disbelief at the police’s explanation as for why the school’s surveillance footage was incomplete — the report claims that some of the video had become damaged because of a worker living in the room where the surveillance equipment was kept who would regularly cut the system off after school because she found it too noisy.
Either way, the massive scandal shows just how depressingly far trust and truth have fallen in China with most people ready to believe the absolute worst about their country’s schools and government. A situation that does not look likey to improve any time soon.
“With contradictory information flying in all directions, nobody knows who to trust. Despite draconian controls on speech and rumor spreading, China seems no less mired in the ‘post-truth era,'” writes China Law Translate founder Jeremy Daum in a blog post on the subject.
“China has been taking increasingly strong measures to address false information online for some time, but censorship and even punishment of rumormongers, seems to heighten suspicion rather than reduce it.”