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China: Around The Nation

Orphan fighters at MMA club to be sent back to school

Education officials fetching teens from mixed martial arts club in the Sichuan capital after video of the boys in a commercial bout surfaced online

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2017, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2017, 2:45pm

Education officials in southwestern China will send at least two orphans back to school after a mixed martial arts club in Chengdu was found to be training them as fighters, raising concerns that they were being exploited, a Shanghai news portal reports.

Police are investigating the Enbo Fight Club after a video clip surfaced online showing two 14-year-old boys in a commercial cage fight.

The boys are from Butuo county, in one of the poorest areas in China, the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture.

They were among some 400 orphans or left-behind children – whose parents are migrant workers in other parts of the country and left them in the care of elderly relatives – who had been taken in by the club, according to a Thepaper.cn report on Tuesday.

In the video, one of the children, Xiao Wu, says he ate better at the MMA club than he did at home.

Education officials have been sent to the club in the Sichuan capital, according to the report.

“The underage children will be taken back to Liangshan and we’ll arrange for them to go to school,” the report quoted an unidentified education official from Liangshan as saying.

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Schools from the prefecture have been asked to verify whether any of their students, especially orphans, had joined Enbo Fight Club. They have also been asked to report any students who fail to return to school after the summer holidays.

In a directive to the schools, the education authority claimed the club “incited and used underage children in commercial fighting and made a huge profit”, the report said.

Enbo Fight Club could not be reached for comment. Its Tibetan founder Enbo, a former armed police officer, previously told media that he started the martial arts team in 2001 and encouraged children to join to stop them turning to crime.

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Club supervisor Zhu Guanghui told state broadcaster China Central Television that video footage circulating online was from a demonstration fight at a promotional event for a property development.

He said the club had gone through the necessary procedures to adopt the children and it had sent the papers to police for investigation.