SHANGHAI • The Chinese authorities have raided toy shops across the country to enforce a ban on handheld crossbows popular with children that can fire nails and needles, state media said.
The so-called "toothpick crossbows" were designed to shoot just that - toothpicks - and in recent weeks became the must-have toy for young children in Chinese schools.
But anxious parents said they feared the devices, made of plastic or metal and costing as little as five yuan (S$1), could end up blinding somebody after reports that people were swopping toothpicks for metal needles and iron nails.
Now the authorities have acted, according to the official Xinhua news agency, which declared late Thursday that the mini crossbows have "vanished from shelves almost as fast as they emerged".
It quoted one worried Beijing parent surnamed Geng saying: "This is more a time bomb than a toy."
Xinhua also quoted an unnamed inspector with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Commerce as warning: "Kids are being watched by teachers and parents. Playing with such a toy will not be tolerated. It is too dangerous."
The crossbows have also been pulled from major shopping websites, the agency said, adding that only one injury had been reported in connection with the crossbows in all of China.
In China, regular crossbows can be carried around only with a permit and failure to have a permit can result in five days behind bars and a 500 yuan fine, Xinhua said.