Mon, Jul 14, 2003 - Page 5 News List

School beatings take center stage in Chinese media

AFP , BEIJING

Several high-profile incidents involving China's teachers who beat their pupils, sometimes cruelly and violently, have shone the spotlight on an issue the government would prefer to keep under wraps, experts say.

Several cases of violence against students, which is strictly banned by law, have been reported recently by the press.

One of the most brutal examples is that of Yang Hong, a 17-year-old pupil at a high school in Yijun, a rural district town in the northern province of Shaanxi.

On May 11, the school's principal bashed Yang's head against a wall several times to punish him for leaving the school without permission.

Yang, who complained of massive headaches after the attack, died one month later in hospital in the provincial capital of Xian. He was denied medical treatment and kept as a virtual prisoner at school for more than 15 days after the beating.

Other students at the school had been violently beaten the day before by the principal and the head counsellor.

"He didn't have a choice, he had to follow the orders of his boss," the counsellor's wife told reporters after Yang's death and the arrest of her husband.

In a June 25 incident, a nine-year-old girl had two-thirds of her ear ripped off by her primary school teacher in the northwestern province of Gansu, according to a local news report.

Her teacher flew into a rage because Tingting had not finished her homework, the Lanzhou Chenbao reported. The teacher has promised to pay for the child's medical expenses.

Then there is the case of 13-year-old Zhao Bin who no longer speaks or opens her eyes except to cast a scared glance on the world around her after being beaten by a teacher.

She and her mother, Zhao Rongjuan, who now carries the teenager on her back, were originally from a small city in Inner Mongolia but moved to Beijing more than a year ago to seek justice after exhausting all legal avenues in their home province.

"She was perfectly normal until the day that her school mistress hit her five years ago," the mother told reporters in the capital.

According to testimony from other students published in the Chinese press, Zhao Bin was smacked on the back of the head, then lashed over the head with a strap, leaving her with a nasty bruise from ear to ear and across the nape of her neck.

The principal of the school said that the girl had a problem with one ear already and that the teacher had only "nipped the other ear, and that created the bruising."

Parents are beginning to question how educators can hit their children without recourse, but the ministry of education in Beijing is reluctant to foster public debate on the matter, according to UNICEF workers who wished to remain anonymous.

After more than a year of talks, the government has reluctantly agreed to the principles of a debate to address violence between schoolchildren, though they note that the problem with school bullies is not endemic to China, the UN agency personnel said.

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