A kindergarten in the Chinese capital has fired its principal amid a probe into alleged child abuse of children and toddlers that has rocked the nation.
New York-listed RYB Education said it had removed the principal of its New World kindergarten in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, and also fired a 22-year-old teacher surnamed Liu, who is now being detained by district police on suspicion of abuse.
Chaoyang authorities said they have ordered an immediate safety review of all childcare facilities operating in the district.
Police last week confiscated surveillance footage and carried out forensic tests, amid reports from parents that their children had been sexually abused, while others said pupils had been “pierced by needles and given unidentified pills,” it said.
Several teachers at the kindergarten have been suspended, amid reports from parents that children as young as three said a naked adult male had conducted "medical check-ups" on unclothed pupils, Reuters cited media reports as saying.
But Chinese lawyer Zhang Tingyuan said the police had only made very vague statements about the allegations so far.
“There has been no transparency, for example about whether they were raped, or sexually assaulted, or physically abused or deliberately harmed,” Zhang said. “They should let people know exactly what kind of abuse was involved.”
“And yet, we’ve only had one incidence of abuse detailed by the police,” he said. “People should be told, and the more bitty the information, the more people will suspect it.”
In 2015, a court in Jilin province found two teachers guilty of physically abusing children at another RYB kindergarten in Siping city.
Staff were found to have “used needles and intimidation tactics to abuse many of the children under their care on multiple occasions," it found.
Investigation at second facility
Meanwhile, further abuse allegations are being investigated at a second childcare facility in Beijing, media reports indicate.
Staff at the Huanyu Kindergarten, also in Chaoyang district, confirmed to RFA on Monday that they are “in the process of trying find out” about allegations that children there were also pricked with needles.
But the staff member said those teachers accused by parents were currently still working at the kindergarten, which has 300-400 pupils.
U.S-based academic Wu Zuolai called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to conduct an inquiry of its own, without input from local officials.
“They need a whole slew of public relations measures, and if they were to run the investigation from the central government, this would have the effect of protecting the whole investigation,” Wu said.
“This is a company that was created by officials to raise money on overseas markets, and I think there are very deep waters here,” he said.
An official who answered the phone at the Chaoyang district government education bureau declined to comment on recent police announcements.
“You should rely on the Chaoyang district police announcements,” the official said.
A Beijing parent of a kindergarten-age child surnamed Shen said parents across the capital are anxiously waiting to hear more about the RYB allegations.
“It’s been several days, and we still have no result,” Shen said. “This is totally about them coming up with a strategy to deal with this.”
“If they go into this properly, it won’t just be teachers who are implicated; the company would be too,” she said.
Beijing-based rights lawyer Mo Shaoping said the charges involved could be very serious indeed, including child rape.
“This are absolutely egregious crimes,” Mo said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Wong Siu-san and Lam Kwok-lap for the Cantonese Service.