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China education

Parents made up molestation and drug claims against US-listed RYB Education, Chinese police say

But company apologises for teacher disciplining children by pricking them with sewing needles

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 3:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 11:14pm

Beijing police say parents of two children at a kindergarten run by a US-listed company have admitted spreading unfounded rumours of children being drugged and sexually molested at the preschool.

Authorities launched an investigation into an RYB Education New World kindergarten in Chaoyang district last week after parents claimed some children at the kindergarten had needle marks on their skin, had been given pills by staff and had been sexually abused.

Police said in a statement late on Tuesday that one teacher had been detained for pricking children with a sewing needle as a disciplinary measure when they did not go to sleep on time.

RYB Education issued an apology on Wednesday, saying it would take legal responsibility for any harm done to the children by the teacher.

Chinese police detain RYB kindergarten teacher over child abuse claims

But police dismissed the molestation and drugging claims, saying a review of 113 hours of surveillance footage uncovered no evidence to support the accusations. However, the footage was also incomplete because the hard drive linked to the CCTV system was damaged.

In the statement on Tuesday, the authorities said a 28-year-old man identified only as Xun admitted to giving his child some medication and coaching the child to make unspecified claims on tape. He uploaded the footage to a WeChat parents group, and an unnamed television reporter then downloaded it and used it as the basis of a report that was aired on television, the police said.

Another parent, surnamed Zhao, also admitted to police that she had made up allegations that her daughter was stripped naked for a physical check-up by “grandpa doctor” and “uncle doctor” at the school, according to the police. Zhao said she was willing to apologise and clarify facts publicly, the police report said.

The police statement said the investigation was continuing but did not clarify if any action would be taken against the parents.

But commenters on social media raised doubts about the police report. Some questioned why parents would publicly shame their children with allegations of sexual abuse while others saw the faulty CCTV hard disk as a convenient excuse, saying key surveillance footage had also “gone missing” in other controversial cases.

“The biggest abuser is the government that actively, shamelessly covers up the abuses of ill-intentioned individuals and organisations,” one commenter said.

Many posts about the investigation on WeChat were censored because “the content violated regulations”.

Even before the police announced the results, some parents said they had removed their children from the kindergarten.

Inspector to be assigned to every kindergarten in Beijing amid RYB investigation

But other parents had faith in the investigation.

A parent of a three-year-old child at the school who would only give his surname Bi told the South China Morning Post that he felt helpless despite believing the results of the investigation.

“There are not many kindergartens to choose from in the area, and [we] can only [send our children] to this school,” he said.

Bi said he believed the incident was caused by one teacher, and tighter management of the kindergarten would be an improvement. He also said he felt the kindergarten’s apology was “not very sincere”.

RYB Education’s share price rose 23 per cent to close at US$22.20 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday after the police report came out. The company listed on the exchange this year and was the first Chinese education company of its type to do so.

RYB Education operates 1,800 kindergartens and day care centres in roughly 300 cities across China.

The incident unleashed a series of claims of child abuse at other kindergartens in the capital.

Additional reporting by Nectar Gan