Chinese police are investigating claims of sexual molestation and needle marks on children at a Beijing kindergarten, the latest case in a booming childcare industry to spark outrage among parents.
The official Xinhua news agency said late on Thursday that police were checking allegations that some teachers and staff at the kindergarten, run by pre-school operator RYB Education Inc, had abused children, who were “reportedly sexually molested, pierced by needles and given unidentified pills.”
Parents said their children, some as young as three, relayed troubling accounts of a naked adult male conducting purported “medical checkups” on students, who were also unclothed, other media said.
Some parents, who gathered outside the school to demand answers on Thursday, said their children gave matching accounts of being fed unidentified tablets and of punishments where students were “made to stand” naked in class, media said.
“We deeply apologize for the serious anxiety this matter has brought to parents and society,” RYB said in a statement on its official microblog on Friday, adding that it was helping authorities.
“We are currently working with the police to provide relevant surveillance materials and equipment; the teachers in question have been suspended and we are co-operating with the police investigation,” it said.
The school’s principal had lodged a police report against “individuals who have engaged in false accusations and framing,” it said, without elaborating.
Beijing police did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
China’s education ministry has begun a special investigation into the operation of kindergartens, it said in a statement on Thursday, and told education departments nationwide to “take warning from these types of incidents.”
Shares in RYB are up about 44 percent on the New York Stock Exchange since a September listing, giving it a market value of nearly $766 million.
This was not the first case of alleged abuse at an RYB school.
In 2015, a court in Jilin Province found two teachers guilty of physically abusing children at one of its kindergartens in the city of Siping. In that case, staff at the school on “multiple occasions used needles and intimidation tactics to abuse many of the children under their care,” according to the court ruling document.