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Student forced to eat feces sparks public outcry in China

(People's Daily Online)    16:04, June 27, 2017

A video of a teenager being forced to eat feces by school bullies in Beijing went viral over the weekend, igniting heated public discussion on China’s school bullying problem.

In the 1-minute clip, which was posted on Sina’s Weibo on Sunday, a teenage boy wearing a school uniform was forced to touch feces in a toilet and then lick his fingers. Local authorities have confirmed that the boy and the bullies are students at Yanqing No. 2 Middle School in Beijing.

According to local police on Monday, the video was taken on June 22. The seven students involved also extorted more than 100 yuan ($15) from the victim and physically abused him. The local police exempted two of the perpetrators from punishment due to their age, while education authorities in Yanqing District placed two students under supervision and gave demerits on the records of four and a warning to the other.

The appalling incident has infuriated the Chinese public and media outlets, who have demanded a thorough investigation and proper punishment of the perpetrators. Many scholars have also proposed to amend China’s criminal law, which currently stipulates that minors under the age of 16 cannot be held responsible unless a serious crime such as murder is committed.

“Unfortunately, there is a rising trend of school bullying in China in recent years, and neither the government nor society are currently prepared to tackle the problem. Legal basis and intervention are needed to protect the teenage victims and educate the perpetrators,” Sun Xiangmiao, a Guangzhou-based child psychologist and therapist told the People’s Daily Online.

Rising problem in China

Teenage bullying is a worldwide problem. According to statistics from 106 countries released by the United Nations Children’s Fund, the proportions of adolescents aged 13-15 who say they have recently experienced bullying ranges from seven percent in Tajikistan to 74 percent in Samoa.

Social problems such as bullying have also come to light in China in recent years. According to research by the People’s Daily’s, eighty-seven cases of school bullying which caused a total of 21 teenage deaths were exposed by China’s media outlets in 2016. In a different survey conducted by Renmin University Scientific Research Foundation in 2016, it was found that school bullying in China usually takes place in the form of verbal attacks, and the internet has become a new channel for teenagers to vent anger on their peers.

“As social dynamics have shifted over time and with the growing use of information and communication technologies such as the internet and smartphones, China’s children are increasingly exposed to new forms of bullying. Both the victims and the perpetrators are at heightened risk for a wide range of emotional problems, including increased risk of suicide,” said Sun.

“Many children I’ve encountered have expressed concern over school bullying, with many of them saying they suffer physical or mental attacks from their peers, especially among boys. I think this has become a serious social problem that we need to deal with properly,” said Lin Zhiqian, a volunteer from a Beijing-based child welfare organization.

Solution on the way

In an effort to protect teenagers, the Chinese government has been taking action to clamp down on school bullying. In 2016, China’s education authorities launched a six-month campaign to curb school bullying, targeting elementary, middle, and secondary vocational schools nationwide.

But many scholars and the public say the country’s criminal and child protection laws should be amended, as many juveniles are legally entitled to a presumption of incapacity and can be exempted from their criminal liability.

In response to the public inquiry, the Central Committee of the Communist Young League posted an article on Zhihu, China’s answer to Quora, in 2016, suggesting that China can learn from other nations on how to deal with juvenile criminals, such as by introducing Western legal terms including “malice supplies the age,” a rule that can hold juveniles between the ages of 10-14 accountable for wrongdoing.

In addition, experts say that education and research should be carried out to raise public awareness on such issues. According to “A Statistical Analysis of Violence Against Children,” a research report conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund in 2014, school-bullying statistics are generally from Western countries, while Asian countries, including China, still have a long way to go.

“China has been carrying out research on school bullying in recent years. For instance, the China Education Panel Survey, which is conducted by Renmin University, has been focusing on school bullying and its outcomes in China, providing us with accurate information,” said Lin.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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