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China probes new daycare scandal after 'needle marks' on toddlers

  • Chinese police have launched an investigation into alleged child abuse at a Beijing pre-school after parents found apparent needle marks on toddlers, sparking new outrage days after a scandal at another daycare. Photo courtesy: AFP

Beijing (AFP) -- Chinese police have launched an investigation into alleged child abuse at a Beijing pre-school after parents found apparent needle marks on toddlers, sparking new outrage days after a scandal at another daycare.

Distraught and angry parents also reported that children were given unidentified pills at the RYB Education New World kindergarten, run by a company that started trading on the New York stock exchange in September.

The Chaoyang district government said police opened an investigation after parents called the authorities on Wednesday to report the suspected abuse.

Authorities declined to provide more details about the allegations.

RYB apologised to parents and said it was cooperating with the police investigation.

"We are currently working with the police to provide relevant surveillance materials and equipment. The teachers in question have been suspended," the company said in a statement on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.

Furious parents gathered outside the school on Thursday, according to footage from state television network CCTV.

CCTV showed images of apparent needle marks on some children. The magazine Caixin said eight children had such marks and that the incidents occurred in two classes with children aged between two and six.

"I asked my child after I heard what other parents said and my child said that they had taken two white pills after lunch, and slept after eating the pills," one father told CCTV.

RYB Education directly operates 80 kindergartens and franchised another 175 in 130 cities across China for children ranging from newborns to six-year-olds, according to its Nasdaq listing.

RYB already had to apologise in April and suspended the head of a Beijing kindergarten after admitting that teachers committed "severe mistakes".

The latest allegations came a week after Chinese online travel agency Ctrip suspended two officials after footage emerged of workers abusing toddlers at a company daycare in Shanghai.

The clips showed young children of Ctrip employees being roughly handled and punished by being force-fed what parents claimed was spicy mustard at the company's Shanghai headquarters.

Police detained three daycare staff for suspected abuse.

The RYB case triggered a new bout of outrage on Chinese social media.

"From Ctrip to RYB, what future do we have if we can't even protect children, let alone the so-called Chinese dream," one Weibo user wrote, referring to the slogan used by President Xi Jinping to call for a rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Another called for cameras to be placed inside every kindergarten classroom, saying, "It's not just this one kindergarten that has a problem."

 

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