Horrifying photos of a young child covered in scalding burn wounds have provoked an outpouring of anger on the Chinese internet.
Photos of a scalded kindergartener enrage the Chinese internet
The photos show what appear to be severe scalds in the lower back and the buttocks of the little boy, known as “Teng Teng.”
In a social media post, his parents accused kindergarten teacher Yu Haibo of causing the injury and demanded her arrest.
“A four-year-old child was punished in a pantry by a kindergarten teacher, leading to severe scalding injuries,” Teng Teng’s parents wrote on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
In hot water
Teng Teng is enrolled at a kindergarten in Jinan, the capital city of the eastern province of Shandong.
Mr Tian, Teng Teng’s father, told Shanghai-based news site The Paper that the kindergarten called to tell him about his son’s scalding injuries on March 23.
The school principal later told them that surveillance footage showed that the teacher had “dragged” his child into the kindergarten pantry after he misbehaved on the playground, Mr. Tian said.
Mr Tian said that the principal’s son told him that the teacher had been called to the door, accidentally pushing him into a container full of boiling hot water.
But Teng’s father suspects foul play, questioning whether the injury was intentional.
The child told his mother that he sat on the container, Mr. Tian said.
“We asked him how he ended up sitting on it, and he couldn’t explain clearly. We asked who pushed him and he didn’t dare to speak,” Mr Tian said, accusing the teacher of having warned the child not to tell the truth.
Some 20% of the boy’s body surface area was scalded, and the child lost consciousness for 72 hours, Mr Tian said.
The boy has recovered but remains in hospital.
The police started an investigation on March 23.
Calls to the kindergarten on Friday were not answered or returned.
The alleged abuse caused a stir on China’s social media.
The country has been hit by a string of child abuse scandals in kindergartens in recent years. “The government encourages people to have two or even three children in such an educational environment!” wrote another Weibo user. “If we have children, will our children be tortured?”
In November, a teacher at the RYB Kindergarten in Beijing was accused of jabbing children who refused to nap with needles and feeding them sleeping pills.
The police concluded that a teacher disciplined children with needles, but didn’t find evidence that they were fed pills.
RYB Kindergarten is a New York-listed company that manages more than 500 kindergartens throughout China.
Power of the public
Speaking to Weibo’s power to force the authorities into action, Mr Tian said the police had been unresponsive until they publicized the incident on the platform on April 10.
Still, social media users point the finger at the platform, accusing it of removing news about the incident from its powerful trending topics list.
“When bad things happen, everything is ‘harmonized’ and it can’t get into the ‘hot search’ rankings no matter what you do!” a Weibo user said, referring to a popular section of the social media site that often draws millions of readers to its featured topics.
King-wa Fu, a journalism professor at the University of Hong Kong, told Inkstone the feature plays a big role in setting the national agenda, like a newspaper front page.
And much like state-run newspapers in mainland China, social media is often subject to official censorship.
But for Teng Teng, it might have been effective enough.