Chinese stepmother ‘beat boy, 6, with bamboo sticks and rope, leaving him in coma’

  • Woman faces court in northwest China, charged with intentional assault and maltreatment in case that shocked the nation
  • Crowdfunding is paying for hospital care for the boy, whose father doesn’t visit and mother rarely sees him, according to nurse
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 7:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 9:46pm

A woman accused of repeatedly beating her six-year-old stepson with bamboo sticks and rope and tying him up with wire, leaving the boy in a vegetative state, has gone on trial in northwest China.

The woman faced Linwei District Court in Weinan, Shaanxi province on Tuesday, charged with two counts of intentional assault and maltreatment, Thepaper.cn reported. If convicted, she could be jailed for up to 20 years.

The case shocked the nation when it was revealed in March last year that the boy, who is now seven and was nicknamed Peng Peng by Chinese media, had been beaten so badly he was in a coma in hospital, with extensive head injuries.

Doctors told media at the time that three-quarters of his skull had been fractured, causing multiple brain haemorrhages. He also had broken ribs, permanently damaged eyesight, missing front teeth and skin ulcers.

Police investigators said the boy’s injuries were the result of his stepmother’s violent physical abuse.

At the time, the boy was living with his father, who had divorced in December 2015 and remarried in October 2016. After an investigation, the boy’s stepmother was detained and then formally arrested in May last year.

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In court on Tuesday, prosecutors alleged that the stepmother had used bamboo sticks and rope to inflict regular beatings on the boy, tied him up with wire and forced him to stand or kneel for long periods of time as a punishment.

Peng Peng is still in a vegetative state and is being cared for at a public hospital by two specialist nurses at a cost of 5,500 yuan (US$790) a month, which is being covered by a nationwide crowdfunding campaign, said a donor who did not want to be identified.

The founder of that campaign on social network WeChat said there had been an outpouring of sympathy for “such an innocent and pitiful child”. “This case is a complete tragedy – if no one had helped him, this child would have died already,” said the person, who is based in Beijing.

The group, Calling Peng Peng, has raised more than 2 million yuan for the boy’s medical costs through a charity crowdfunding platform. It also raises more than 20,000 yuan a month through WeChat Pay to fund daily expenses including clothing, food and the two full-time carers.

It has more than 370,000 followers on Weibo, where members and volunteer hospital visitors post frequent updates on the boy’s condition.

“That such a young child has suffered so much is heartbreaking,” said Zhang Xia, one of the nurses who has been looking after the boy since November.

Zhang added that the boy’s father did not visit him in hospital, while his mother had remarried and did not go to see him very often.

“Apart from us nurses, it’s just the volunteers and the donors who are supporting him,” she said.

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Although domestic violence was criminalised in China in 2016, there is no legislation that addresses child abuse specifically. Corporal punishment is banned in schools, but physical and verbal abuse of children by their parents is relatively accepted in China, according to a 2014 survey in Guangzhou that found 60 per cent of adults did not think that beating a child should be considered domestic violence.

But the issue of violence towards children has gained wider public attention in recent years, especially when it occurs at schools. Last November, two kindergartens in Beijing and Shanghai came under fire for alleged assault and similar child abuse scandals at schools across the country have received widespread media coverage.