Chinese boy starts fire in lift, reignites social media debate on what to do about unruly children

Footage from surveillance camera shows young arsonist setting a poster alight inside lift cabin before fleeing the scene

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2018, 6:46pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2018, 11:14am

Images of a young boy setting fire to a poster in a lift in northern China have rekindled a heated social media debate as to what should be done to counter a perceived spike in unruly behaviour involving the nation’s youth.

The latest incident happened in a block of flats in Handan, Hebei province, on May 7, state broadcaster CCTV said on Monday in a report that included footage from a surveillance camera of the young arsonist’s antics.

The film shows the boy entering the lift shortly before 10pm and attempting to set light to a poster on the wall of the cabin. His efforts initially appear to have failed, and the child exits the lift at the 29th floor.

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However, the next section of the footage shows a man entering the lift just minutes later by which time the cabin is full of smoke. Instead of fleeing the scene, the man attempts to stamp out the blaze.

The report did not make clear what happened next, but quoted a building management worker as saying that the lift had been slightly damaged.

“The child knows what he did wrong, and the lift is under maintenance,” the person said.

A local resident said: “It affects people’s safety, a lot of people live in this building.”

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In a country with 1.4 billion people, reports of naughty children are not uncommon, although social media users appear convinced a recent spate of incidents of unruly behaviour is indicative of a broader problem.

In a survey by China Youth Daily 82 per cent of respondents said they thought that the number of “bear children” – a term used to described brattish youngsters – was growing and that, for the most part, their parents were to blame.

“It’s not about not being able to control ‘bear children’, it’s about parents not being able to educate them,” a person wrote on the Weibo account of People’s Daily, which shared the poll results.

“Like father like son,” said another.

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Earlier this month, a young boy was caught on surveillance cameras scratching the words “Ha Ha” on the bodywork of vehicles in a car park in Chongqing, while in February, another youngster from the same city was filmed urinating on a lift’s control panel. His prank backfired when the system malfunctioned and he was trapped inside.

Internet users were quick to respond to the video, which was uploaded to Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, by the Ministry of Public Security.

The most popular comment read: “Behind a naughty child there are definitely naughty parents.”