Pictures showing strings of scars on the back of a ten-year-old schoolboy from Guangdong province whipped by his step-mother fanned public anger over the country’s ignorance about child abuse on social media.
A microblogger who identified herself as Luxixi posted four photos late last night showing apparent bruises and scars left by lashes on the back, arms and legs of a ten-year-old boy.
“Binbin is in Grade 3. His teacher discovered fresh bruises every time he attended her class. He told the teacher his step-mother whipped him with hangers and wooden sticks several times a week,” the microblogger posted. “Does she deserve to be called a mother?”
“Time will not heal the wounds on his heart,” one microblogger from Guangdong commented.
“Our country needs to roll out new laws to protect children from abuse,” an engineer from Sichuan province wrote.
The microblogger that exposed the photos could not be reached for comment.
The Guangzhou Daily reported on Thursday that police stepped in on Tuesday after Binbin’s teacher called them for help.
“I could barely fall asleep after I saw the bruises, in fear that Binbin would be abused again after school,” the paper quoted the teacher as saying.
Binbin told her his step-mother had spanked and whipped him with hangers whenever he said or did anything against her for the past two years.
Local police took Binbin to Heyuan People’s Hospital for a medical examination, which showed he was not under a “critical condition”, the newspaper said.
Police then brought the 10-year-old to his aunt’s, and “commissioned” the community group in charge of his neighbourhood to “educate” his step-mother, who was revealed to have been suffering from depression.
Both the police bureau and hospital declined to comment.
The pictures marked the latest exposé of the abuse of children by parents or people in positions of authority conducted behind closed doors in China.
Criminal law expert Pi Yijun, of the China University of Criminal Science and Law, said child abuse would seldom land parents in jail due to the lack of a specific clause in criminal law that protects children from domestic violence.
“The clauses we have in our child protection laws are way too broad and over-generalised to be applied to individual cases,” said Pi. “Instead, we have to turn to criminal codes or the criminal law, and charge the parents with intentional injuries.”
However, most child abuses cases that left the young children with bruises – but not broken limbs – do not constitute intentional injuries under Chinese criminal law. A scar longer than 9 centimetres, for instance, can be recognised as a minor injury, the professor explained.
“The child abuse cases exposed by the media are just a tip of the iceberg,” Pi added.
A survey conducted by Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou earlier this month showed that less than 40 per cent of some 1,000 Guangzhou residents and 1,610 community groups canvassed by the university regarded beating one’s own children as domestic violence.
“It is deeply rooted in Chinese culture that wives and children are people’s private property,” Pi said. As a result, bystanders seldom report child abuse cases – which are commonly regarded as a family’s own business – to the police and other authorities.