A major sexual abuse scandal is rapidly unfolding in Beijing, China as the teaching staff of a leading preschool chain have been accused of molesting and drugging more than a dozen toddlers, according to Reuters and the People’s Daily.
Described to be in a state of “collective shock,” the parents of more than a dozen toddlers in Beijing have filed complaints against the teachers of the preschool for harming their children, who were “reportedly sexually molested, pierced by needles and given unidentified pills.”
The preschool that has been flagged as a hotbed of child abuse is a school owned by the Red Yellow Blue (RYB) Education group – a leading chain of preschools educating children aged 2-6. In September, RYB Education made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, becoming the first Chinese early childhood education provider to list in the United States. It runs a network of more than 1,800 kindergartens and day care centres in around 300 Chinese cities.
A parent told Chinese media that his child began attending the Beijing preschool in September, and told him in October that teachers were mistreating him. Soon after, another parent alleged that three children were punished by being told to stand naked. Parents also said they found needle marks on their children’s bodies.
As of Wednesday, eight parents had reported allegations of abuse to police, according to the mother of a 3-year-old who revealed this in a video interview to Tencent News. These eight pairs of parents suspect that their children have been drugged and molested.
One video shows two parents asking their toddler son about a white pill they discovered on him. The little boy then answered “the teacher gave it to me to make me sleep.” He also said: “We have to take these pills every day.” The video was later taken down.
In another video, a mother of a 3-year-old victim said:
“I discovered a lot of needle marks and I asked Ms Liu, her form teacher, the teacher said she doesn’t know.
“My child told me there were a ‘grandpa’, and an ‘uncle’ who claimed to conduct a medical checkup. The ‘uncle’ and the students were undressed.”
The mother also inexplicitly said her child imitated to her how ‘uncle’ conducted the checkup, and revealed that the ‘uncle’ had touched the children, according to the mother.
“They were starting to make kids feel normal about these activities,” she said, “I need to know what was the drug injected. So far, the kindergarten had not provided any answer to us.”
Discussions on social media are being censored. The hashtag “Beijing’s RYB Centre Suspected of Child Abuse’ (#北京红黄蓝涉嫌虐童#) became of the top search on Weibo on Thursday afternoon, but then became inaccessible.
As of the time of publication, the mainstream media in China has only reported the aspect that children were asked to take injections and medications, omitting the sexual abuse aspect, despite multiple parents describing similar accounts of their children being punished naked and being touched.
A journalist from Beijing Youth Daily reported that on Thursday, November 23, a group of parents gathered at the gate of the preschool. Parents demanded to see the center’s surveillance videos, but according to reports that came out around 17.30 Beijing time, the police had already confiscated the footage.
A nationwide censorship had been applied on all media platforms, Weibo in particular. Users are banned from commenting or posting related keywords. In a joint effort, netizens switched to “three colours”- implying the name of the preschool organization – as a code to ventilate their anger.
Many tearful parents spoke to reporters at the school gates. One mother told reporters that her child told her that teachers had threatened the children not to tell their parents about the abuses. They told the young children that they had a “very long telescope” and would be able to watch them, even if they were at home.
One parent said:
“My child is only three-and-a-half years old, and I found needle holes on his thighs and buttocks. I am trembling with anger.”
Another father revealed to journalists that he had taken his child to the hospital on November 22 for an examination and that the doctor found there was trauma to the anus area. “I feel like burning down the school,” the man said.
Father of another female victim also said that his daughter’s school fee had been RMB5,500 (S$1,100), as she attended the best class type. Normal class types charge students at RMB3,300 (S$ 660) per month, while Beijing’s average monthly income is $1,541 in 2017.
Three employees of the preschool have been temporarily suspended from their duties, according to a company spokesman who spoke to reporters.
Police investigations are ongoing.