The Haidian "Teacher Abuse Gate" Scandal
(Southern Weekend) The Complete History of the Haidian "Teacher Abuse Gate" Scandal. By Zhang Ying (张英). June 7, 2007.
On the afternoon of May 22, a substitute geography teacher at the Haidian district Art Vocational School (hereafter referred to as Haidian Art) 70-year-old Sun Xinmao encountered the "worst" class in his forty plus years of teaching ...
At 6am, teacher Sun got out of bed. He spent half an hour washing up, he ate breakfast, he put his worn-out yellow cloth bag on his back, he hung the monthly bus pass around his neck and he left home. From his home at the dormitory of the Qinghe Wool Knitting Factory, it took almost one hour to get to Haidian Art by public bus.
As usual, the white-haired teacher Sun wrote down the lesson outline on the black board and then began teaching. About 15 minutes later, a young male student sitting on the second row of the right-hand side of the classroom took out a mobile telephone and started to yell, "Recording now, recording now." He pointed the camera to the student that others called Big Mule first and then swung the camera around to the two female students who were chatting in the middle.
Then it was back to Big Mule who explained: "This the f*cking geography lesson." Another fellow student egged him on: "Big Mule, perform for us. You have some fun."
Big Mule got up immediately and walked towards teacher Sun and attempted to rip the teacher's cap off. Teacher Sun swerved aside and took his cap off by himself. Several students laughed aloud. Someone asked, "Was that recorded?"
Big Mule then went back to his seat. He picked up an empty water bottle and tossed it at Qiang Zi in the back row. Qiang Zi then threw the bottle at the teacher who was still teaching, but he missed. A student in the front throw picked up the bottle and threw it back to Qiang Zi while saying, "You missed!"
Qiang Zi picked up another bottle on his desk and walked to the front of the classroom. He aimed the mouth of the bottle towards the teacher and attempted to spray him with water while yelling: "F*ck you until you die!" Big Mule pointed to teacher Sun and said: "This is the stupid c*nt!"
Teacher Sun was standing on the platform and he turned around to say angrily: "Do you still want to have class? I have told you time and again not to interfere with the other students listening to the lecture. When you act like this, how can I lecture?"
Big Mule replied: "Ignore me. You keep talking. We are talking over here, but our brains are still working." The students all laughed. The camera person Xiao Yang got up and took close-ups of the students. Then Big Mule got on the platform again and attempted to take away the monthly bus pass in the front pocket of teacher Sun while yelling, "Teacher, I have a question to ask you."
Teacher Sun held his emotions in check until he finished the class. Then he immediately complained to the class master Zhang Yunlian. After listening to teacher Sun's complaint, teacher Zhang summoned Big Mule and Qiang Zi before her and reprimanded them severely. She announced that Big Mule would be issued a formal warning, while Qiang Zi was just rebuked.
On the next day (May 23), teacher Sun was teaching the class again. When he entered the classroom, Big Mule said: "Teacher, I thank you for my punishment." Then he sat down quietly. During this class, Qiang Zi did not do anything out of the way.
So the matter appeared to be over. Teacher Sun began teaching this class only in March and he was not very familiar with the students. He only knew that they had been recently transferred over from the Xiaoxitian branch of the school.
Two days later, all hell broke loose over this affair.
Xuxu was very sorry afterwards. She never imagined that this video clip that she got from her classmate Xiao Yang would create a storm in the virtual world of the Internet that shook up their real lives -- dozens of media and website reporters appeared outside the school gate, netizens would call up to harangue them, their QQ numbers were flooded ... she along with the principals in the affair and the entire school would encounter hitherto unseen hardship.
At 4pm on May 25, Xuxu was chatting with classmates on the Internet. She forwarded the video clip to her classmates, and she also posted it on her own blog until the title: "Super amusing ... this is our classroom ... hahahaha ... laughter all day, anything is possible."
Xuxu did not expect that a classmate would post the video clip to the World of Warcraft website. Very quickly, this video clip was posted by other netizens to the forums at the big websites.
Three hours later, Xuxu finished eating dinner at home and logged on to the Internet again. She suddenly saw that her own blog had more than 5,000 hits plus more than 100 angry comments. She quickly deleted the video on her blog. But the visits and comments continued for more than an hour. So she deleted her photo album and diary as well.
But the affair has gone beyond the point where Xuxu could stop it by deleting information. On that evening, angry netizens from all over the country went to her blog and located the blogs of all the other students in her class. Apart from leaving condemnations and threats in the comments, they also published the QQ numbers of the students on the Internet.
Two others video segments of the Haidian Art class was also located and published by netizens.
The first video segment was titled; "Classroom material." During this 1:24 segment, a short-haired middle-aged teacher wearing a light gray t-shirt was teaching. At the same time on the right side of the classroom, a male student in a pink t-shirt swiped the eyeglasses of a male student wearing a white top. The two cursed at each other and fought for their seats while a female student was laughing loudly. The teacher came over to scold them and then the students returned to their seats reluctantly.
The second video segment contained some violent ingredients. Within this 1:11 segment, the desks and chairs had been moved to the side of the classroom. Four students including Qiang Zi and Big Mule sat silently and glared at each other. Suddenly, someone stood up, pointed his finger and started cursing. Then a fight broke out with everyone involved.
In a comment at her blog at 9pm on May 27, Xuxu explained to the netizens who had been criticizing her: "It is like that at Haidian Art. But on that day, they went too far. We only wanted to play a joke. We did not mean any malice. We realized that we were wrong afterwards. We have apologized. The teacher and the school have forgiven us. We are having a rough time because we are being harassed all the time. We are really sorry. Please do not continue with this."
The other principal Qiang Zi was interviewed by the Beijing TV program <When the law goes into action> and explained what was happening on that day: "On that day, someone was playing with the mobile phone camera, so some people wanted to perform. We did not realize that the consequences would be so serious."
The Haidian District Art Vocational School is the result of the merger of the former Haidian District Tourism Vocational School, the former Haidian District Art Vocational School and its Xiaoxitian branch. Over the past ten years or so, vocational schools have not fared well. The universities were expanding enrolment and lowering admission standards. As a result, some vocational schools also had to lower their admission standards in order to survive.
Since the pool of students was not large enough in Beijing alone, Haidian Art has had to recruit students from Xinjiang, Shaanxi, Jilin, Liaoning, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Hebei and other provinces. They have also formed joint classes with schools in Yennan, Zunyi and other places. They have established new tracks in animations, tourism service and management, restaurant service and management, computer network technology, public relations writings and other specialties. The best known track is art education for children.
"This audiovisual performance class had been popular once upon a time at the Xiaoxitian school. At times, there were three or four sections for each class year. It is no longer popular and there are hardly any applicants. Later on there was only one section per class year left and they could not even cover the rent. Since they could not go on any further by themselves, they had to be moved to the main school," said teacher Sun.
According to the recruitment information from Haidian Art, the audiovisual performance class belongs to a middle vocational school and the recruiting targets are mostly junior middle school students. The tuition fee is 18,000 yuan per student for three years. According to teacher Sun, apart from the tuition fee, the students in this class have to purchase clothes and equipment, pay for good performers to come to teach as well as to pay for internship in order to graduate.
But it is often a huge problem for graduates to find work. "Attending class is definitely meaningless for me. I made the wrong decision to major in performance arts. Those who not know the inside story will certainly be impressed my major, but how many people really understand this profession? After graduating, the only options are to apply to schools like the Beijing Film Academy or the Central Academy of Drama. If we don't get accepted, we will have just wasted our time at school and the 18,000 yuan has gone down the drain. I am really unsure that I will get accepted by those universities."
"There will be a parents' meeting today. We are the only class in the whole school to have a meeting. That is attention-catching. I don't need to give the reason because everybody knows that already. Since our class had just arrived at this school, we were at the bottom of the barrel. Sigh! Everybody else is working hard, but people like us are just wasting our youth away ..."
The above two paragraphs above from the blog of a female student in the audiovisual performance class.
The teachers and students did not anticipate that the media and the netizens would show up in front of Haidian Art. On that day at the Haidian Art forum at Baidu, a student left the comment: "I am not in the same class as those kids. The characters in the case are now staying home to avoid trouble. So please don't make the incident worse. We are not in the mood of attending class ... please do not cause more trouble."
In the evening, three police cars came and it drew a group of citizens who came to watch. Mister Ma who lives near Haidian Art told the reporter that this was the second time that he has seen so many reporters. The last time was in 2005 when a first-year Haidian Art high school student was attached by eight or nine knife-wielding unidentified men.
A female teacher who did not wish to disclose her name told the Southern Weekend reporter at the school's front gate that -- apart from a few children education class -- the conditions in the vocational classes are more or less the same. During class, it is usual for the students to nap, fool around, walk about and tell jokes. The pleas from the teachers usually receive scorn from the students. After a while, the teachers became numb.
When the class master of the audiovisual performance class Zhang Yunlian was interviewed by the reporter, she said that she was very shocked when she saw the video. "The excessive behavior in the video had never appeared before." She thought, "Big Mule is a kid with a simple character. No matter what it is, he is usually in the front because he likes to show himself off in front of the students."
Haidian Art school principal Xu Suxia was totally unprepared fro the storm caused by the Internet and the video. During the past few days, the telephone at the principal's office has been ringing continuously. People were calling from everywhere, including international long-distance calls. The contents of the calls were all about one thing -- condemnations of the students shown in the video and the school.
At 9am on May 29, the Southern Weekend reporter went to teacher Sun's home in Qinghe and learned that teacher Sun had been picked up by the school. Later, teacher Sun told the reporter what happened. On that morning, the school cancelled one class period and held a school meeting titled "Respect the teachers, love the students" in the multi-functional assembly hall. Apart from the Haidian district department of education leaders, there were teacher and student representatives. In front of the school leaders, the students Big Mule, Qiang Zi, Xuxu and Xiao Yang (who took the video) bowed to teacher Sun and apologized. All the students in the school heard the live report over the broadcast sound system.
At 9:46, the Haidian Art official blog (which had been claiming that "the video was fake" several days ago) posted a statement: "The school made an investigation and found that it really happened ... we have finally identified the students responsible and reprimanded them. They have signed letters of promise, and they know that they will be dismissed immediately if this should recur! At the same time, they have made sincere apologies to the relevant teacher, who has accepted those apologies ... all the reporters who were there to observe the principals can bear witness ... every school has naughty students, so this phenomenon is not restricted to our school. We hope that this incident will caution other schools to improve school administration."
On May 30, the various Beijing newspapers published similar reports about the students' apologies. But the reporters at those Beijing newspapers confirmed that they had not been invited to attend the meeting by the school and they had not witnessed what happened. They only received an email with a letter of apology in the name of the students, a press release from the school and a photograph showing the four students bowing to apologize to teacher Sun.
On June 1, the major character in the video Qiang Zi attended the <When the law goes into action> TV show and he apologized to teacher Sun as well as all of society. "I was wrong. I am sorry. I hope that the teacher can forgive me. I am sorry to cause this to the school and to everybody. I hope that I can return to normal life. I hope that everybody can give a chance to me and my classmates. I guarantee that this will never ever happen again in my life."
When Xu Suxia was interviewed by Southern Weekend by telephone, she only said: "We cannot punish the school and all the students on account of one video segment. I hope that the school can resume normal teaching activities. As far as I am concerned, this affair is over."
It would seem that this affair is now over. On June 4 after the weekend, Big Mule, Qiang Zi and Xuxu entered the school in the company of their parents and resumed normal schooling. But teacher Sun who accepted the apology has not yet re-appeared at school.
On the evening of May 30, teacher Sun was interviewed by Southern Weekend at home and his eyes were blood-shot and his brows were knitted. This white-haired man had not have a good sleep for several nights. He wore the same white shirt as in the video and he sat on a small black stool while leaning against his bed.
Teacher Sun watched that video on the morning of May 28 on the computer in the teachers' room. Teacher Sun does not use a computer or mobile phone.
"They showed me the video. I was mentally prepared. I have taught my entire life but I have never been on television. At least, everybody knows me now. I am a teacher. In my class, something like this has happened. It seemed to have blackened the name of education in Haidian as well as all of China. This affair has created a lot of pressure on me, but I cannot shift the responsibility elsewhere."
The hometown of teacher Sun is in a Henan rural village. After graduating from the Henan University Department of Geography, he was assigned to teach middle school in the Haidian district of Beijing. He worked until he retired. His monthly pension is more than 2,700 yuan while his wife got more than 1,000 yuan from her wool knitting factory. In theory, the old couple should have a decent time.
But quite a few people need teacher Sun's help to live.
His eldest son who worked as an engineer at the Ministry of Construction had brain surgery with some after-effects that rendered him incapable of working. The daughter-in-law is a doctor with a meager income which was only enough to feed herself and her son. The younger son works at an automotive parts factor in the Fangshan district and earns more than 1,000 yuan a month. The wife of the younger son has a rural hukou and can only work as a temporary worker at the public bus company. The two of them barely make more than 2,000 yuan per month. So teacher Sun has to help them out on their child-rearing expenses.
The family members in Beijing need money, but so do the family members back in Henan. Teacher Sun's younger brother in rural Henan passed away and the wife remarried, leaving behind four children who are still in school. Therefore, the living and tuition expenses of the four children have fallen upon the shoulders of teacher Sun. Since retiring from Qinghe Middle School, teacher Sun (who is a senior teacher) has been working as a substitute teacher in various schools around Beijing.
Since 2003, teacher Sun has been a substitute teacher at Haidian Art. His own income from the school comes from the lecture fees. He teaches ten classes each week, at 45 yuan per class. After deducting taxes, teacher Sun earns 1,600 yuan per month as a substitute teacher.
Regular teachers at the school earn basic wages, bonuses and welfare benefits, which teacher Sun does not get. The 1,600 yuan is very important to teacher Sun. Teacher Sun has worked all his life and he has never been as "idle" as the past few days. This was enough to cause the hardworking teacher Sun to worry. At the moment, he is most concerned about whether he can continue to work as a substitute teacher at the school.
On the morning of June 4, teacher Sun called the deputy school principal from home. Over the telephone, he was told to wait for notification. Although there were people calling to collect donations over the Internet for teacher Sun, he refuses to take donations. "I am in good health and I can continue to work. This work is important to me, because I am a substitute teacher who does not get paid unless I teach."
Why does teacher Sun wear a cap in class? The old man said that he sometimes catches cold or headache otherwise. He has explained to the students why he does that.
(Southern Weekend) The "Big Internet Hunt." By Zhang Ying. June 7, 2007.
- May 26: At 22:27 at the Hodgepodge section of the Tianya Community Forum, the netizen "The Last Hero" posted <Beijing Middle School Students Assault Teacher in Geography Class -- Real Videos Plus Photographs>. He had come across the video at the World of Warcraft website by chance.
In Guangzhou, university student Xiao Xiao Wu Liao came across this video while surfing the Internet. He was shocked. Like many netizens, he was concerned that the video may vanish very soon. So he posted the video at more Internet forums.
He need not have worried. That night, the video disappeared from some websites, but more netizens posted the video elsewhere: YouTube, 56.com, Toudou and others all carried this video.
- May 26: In the morning, Xiao Xiao Wu Liao saw the various versions of "Internet warrants" to identify Big Mule as well as many other posts about the teacher abuse case at Haidian Art. At the same time, a lot of information about the principals were being ferreted out and published.
A MOP forum netizen posted to say that the black t-shirt of one of the principals is very similar to the uniform at Haidian Art. At 6pm, the netizen Xiao Bobo posted at the Tianya Forum that he saw the English-language words on the blackboard and the Uzbekistan and Chinese national flags and his research showed that Haidian Art had been involved in activities with Uzbekistan. He attached a relevant news report with his post.
Shortly afterwards, a self-proclaimed Haidian Art student posted at the Baidu "Haidian Art" section that the incident in the video had occurred in his/her classroom. The names, mobile telephone numbers and QQ numbers of the four principals were published. This post was quickly distributed to the other forums. Based upon the information in this post, netizens began to call the four published mobile telephone numbers in order to heap abuse and issue threats until the four telephones were shut off.
- May 27: The Chongqing Commercial Press published <Popular Internet video about students insulting their teacher in class (photos included)>. This was the first newspaper report which was carried at the various major portals. This stimulated even more interest on the Internet.
In the afternoon, posts about the Haidian Art video appeared in all the websites. Some of the video websites put this video on the front page. Three forums concerned with this specific case were established.
Certain netizens located the Haidian Art official website. At 3pm, there were many comments left at the comment board, including threats to kill the students in the case with knives. The weekend teacher on duty and the security guard also received various calls of condemnation from netizens. At 9pm, the Haidian Art website was invaded by hackers who change the front page to "Our moral bottom line." It was later changed to "We firmly oppose a school like yours."
At 9:32pm, Baidu suddenly had a new blog titled: "The official blog of the Beijing Haidian Art Vocational School" which claimed at first: "We will try to provide a satisfactory answer to everybody as soon as possible." Then it switched to "This video was not factual. It was just a prank ... we went through the files at school and we do not have the students shown in the video."
The truth was getting more clouded. At the various forums, more netizens were talking about this case.
On that afternoon, the Beijing netizen Yu Shang realized that this was a chance to improve his own popularity and recognition. Based upon the published QQ numbers on the Internet, he contacted a netizen who is currently studying at Haidian Art and obtained the QQ number of Haidian. Afterwards, Yu Shang published the chat session with this Haidian netizen at the Tianya Forum.
The netizen Guolu Digui then posted to say that intended to go to Haidian the next day but he hoped that there would not be any physical confrontation.
Xiao Xiao Wu Liao contacted Guolu Digui and Yu Shang and so the three people who were focusing on this case got together for a live broadcast at the Tianya forum of the demonstration in front of Haidian Art the next day.
- May 28: In the morning, Xiao Xiao Wu Liao began his live broadcast post <From the front lines at Haidian Art -- the first-hand report from Xiao Xiao Wu Liao> at Tianya Forum's Hodgepodge section. Meanwhile, the Beijing netizens Guolu Digui and Yu Shang went to the scene at Haidian Art.
In front of the school, more than twenty people were gathered. After checking with the people, it was discovered that most of them came from various newspapers, television stations, BBS forums and video websites. There were very few netizens.
On this day, the school gates stayed closed. The reporters had nothing to do, and the sight of them doing nothing formed the contents of the live broadcast. Even the reporter Zhang Shuo form The Mirror became the subject of interview, although he was listed as a "protesting netizen."
On this day, Yu Shang and Guolu Digui kept sending SMS reports to Xiao Xiao Wu Liao to post on the Internet with every detail. Xiao Xiao Wu Liao then organized those SMS messages and posted them on the Tianya Forum.
At 3:30pm, the school gates opened to let the students out. All the students and teachers responded with the same reply: "I don't know" to the questions from the media.
After most of the students had left, Yu Shang finally saw teacher Sun who was abused in the video. He also saw a white van taking several of the students in the video away. The media reporters and video website workers immediately surrounded the van. Someone was yelling, "I'm going to chop you to death" while banging on the car window. The people in the van were scared and covered their faces or lowered their heads. Several minutes later, with the assistance of the security guards and teachers, the van was able to leave the scene.
These scenes were uploaded to the Tianya and other forums through text, photographs and videos and caused a stir. Just as Xiao Xiao Wu Liao predicted, the netizens reacted with excitement. On May 28, Xiao Xiao Wu Liao's live broadcast post had 380,000 hits. Because there were so many hits, the page was at times inaccessible.
- May 29: The newspapers and television stations across the nation were paying attention to the developments of the Haidian Arts affair. More reporters ere stationed outside the gate of Haidian Art. A reporter who interviewed the school principal and the class master said that the school had asked the students and the teacher in the video to stay home and rest because of safety concerns.
The attempt by the reporters to rush the school gate and their eviction from the school grounds became the material for the Internet reports. Apart from the video websites, three forums also ran live broadcasts.
- May 30: In the morning, there were still various television station reporters, newspaper reporters and website workers outside the school. The school then distributed photocopies of the Beijing Youth Daily interview with the school leaders. That afternoon, Beijing Evening News said that the Haidian Art school authorities had conducted a school meeting on the theme of "Respect the teachers, love the students" during which the offending students apologized publicly to teacher Sun.
On that day, Yu Shang and another netizen Rui Xuan were only able to obtain the clash between the Oriental Satellite Television reporter and the school security guards. That would be the only video content for the Internet that day.
- May 31: Perhaps because Rui Xuan and other webcast workers were dissatisfied with how the school handled the matter, they returned to the school. They and the other reporters in front of the school received photocopies from the school of the various news reports by the various Beijing newspapers about Haidian Art. But Rui Xuan and others were not satisfied that they did not receive an apology from the school, so they threw the materials on the ground and stomped on them.
The walls and utility poles in front of Haidian Art were covered with notices to the students to the effect that everything was normal and there was no need for the netizens and the media to be concerned because this can only endanger the teachers and students. The school also installed a camera and a video camera in front of the school. According to the school workers, they wanted to film the trouble-making netizens for evidence in case of trouble.
At around this time, the various Internet posts about the Haidian reports suddenly vanished at the various websites. Some websites even made "Haidian Art" into a sensitive keyword. On the same day, a certain website that had specialized on condemning Haidian Art announced it has encountered attacks by hackers while also simultaneously announcing that it was merging with another commercial website.
- June 1: Yu Shang continued to communicate with the students involved in the case over QQ in order to persuade them to apologize publicly over the Internet, or to chat at his forum.
Yu Shang did not say that he was also entrusted by a certain television station to record the proceedings. This television station promised to give him a special interview in return. But the scared students would not appear on camera. So Yu Shang published his chat session records at the various big BBS forums.
Video Links: 海艺学生打老师事件; same video at YouTube