Beijing teacher detained in abuse case

A crowd gathers outside RYB Kindergarten in Xintiandi, in eastern Beijing. PHOTO: NYTIMES
A father picks up his child from RYB Kindergarten in Xintiandi, in eastern Beijing. PHOTO: NYTIMES

BEIJING (NYTIMES) - A kindergarten teacher suspected of abusing children was detained by police in China's capital, state media reported on Saturday (Nov 25), as the city government tried to contain public fury over claims that children at the kindergarten had been fed pills, jabbed with needles and forced to strip.

The police said a 22-year-old woman who taught at RYB Kindergarten in Xintiandi, a middle-class housing development in east Beijing, had "been placed in criminal detention on suspicion of mistreating persons in her care," Xinhua, China's official news agency, reported.

The police gave no further details on the woman, other than that her last name was Liu.

The announcement seemed to at least partly vindicate parents who in recent days have claimed that children at the kindergarten may have been abused. They said three-year-olds in one class had described being fed pills that made them drowsy and given shots that left tiny marks on their skin, and some alleged that children were stripped.

The allegations ignited a firestorm of public anger. Officials from the Beijing Municipal Education Commission suggested that Saturday's detention showed that the authorities were addressing the crisis.

After the police announced the detention, the commission said it "strongly condemns the actions of the person implicated in the case that gravely violated teaching morals."

But Liu's detention does not mean she has been formally arrested.

Criminal detention allows Chinese police to hold a suspect while they investigate allegations and consider charges, and police said their investigation would continue.

The step may not be enough to quell the anger of parents and their supporters, and some suggested in comments on social media that the young teacher would become a scapegoat for broader failings.

The parents have said their children described abuses by more than one teacher.

The Chaoyang District government in Beijing, which covers the area where the facility operates, said the principal of the kindergarten had been dismissed, and other staff members may also be held accountable, depending on their findings.

But city authorities have distanced themselves from the most chilling allegations made by parents: that children in the class may have been sexually assaulted by a predatory ring.

Beijing police said Saturday that they had also detained a woman who confessed to spreading rumours that a group of military officers had molested children at the kindergarten. A Chinese military officer vehemently denied the rumors Friday.

The kindergarten under investigation is operated by RYB Education - the letters stand for red, yellow and blue - which listed on the New York Stock Exchange in September.

The company runs 80 kindergartens across China and has franchise operators for 175 other facilities.

On Friday, the company's stock price plummeted nearly 40 per cent.

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