A recent report of three high school boys spiking a girl student’s drink with an aphrodisiac has turned the spotlight of public scrutiny on China’s growing problem with severe school bullying.
‘She Deserved It’
On March 5, a girl student at Tianjiabing Experimental Middle School in Huangshan, Anhui province spoke out about a case of bullying gone too far.
In a post on Weibo, she explained how classmates drugged her with an aphrodisiac to test rumors about her sexual orientation. She said she felt nothing at first, but then classmates told her that three boys had spiked her drink with another substance. She assumed it was a laxative, but the boys admitted to slipping her an aphrodisiac the next day.
A follow-up investigation found the boys obtained the liquid aphrodisiac from a local sex shop, which closed before the incident.
The three boys were caught when they tried to administer it to another boy’s drink as a test. They said they didn’t feel any special effects when they tried it themselves, so they decided to add it to a girl’s drink to see if it made a difference.
Online fury inspired the police in Huangshan to speed up their investigation of the case. The full details and names have not been released to the public because the case involves minors.
“We consider the case closed. The victim has forgiven the boys. Both parties agreed that punishment should be according to school regulations,” Huangshan police wrote on their Weibo channel on March 6.
The Huangshan Education Department said it would not take on the case due to “insufficient evidence.”
The response and hasty verdict dissatisfied many Internet users, and 41 NGOs issued a joint statement urging the police to disclose the boys’ “motivation” and punish them in accordance with the law.
Many said the punishment or lack thereof was too light – especially given the three boys were older than 16. But students at Tianjiabing Experimental School thoughts differently, and in a school forum blamed the girl for “ruining the boys’ future” and “bringing shame to Huangshan.”
Others accused her of “making a fuss” over a harmless “prank,” and that “she deserved it for being a lesbian.”
School bullying is common around the world, but bullying in China is usually quite physical and cruel.
Last June, nine Jiangxi province girls between the ages of 12 and 16 were filmed battering another girl student. That same month, three minors in Sichuan province stripped a younger girl naked, beat her and photographed their handiwork.
Also last June, the 16-year-old Huang Tanghong in Fujian Province was admitted to a hospital with a ruptured spleen. He had been the victim of bullying by three classmates for almost four years. The bullies were taken into custody for causing serious injury, but were released when their parents agreed to pay Huang’s family a compensation of 210,000 yuan, CNN reported.
About 32.5 percent of China’s students experience “mild bullying” and 6 percent experience “severe bullying,” according to a 2016 survey of 5,000 students published by China Youth and Children Research Center.
A report by Zhejiang University paints a bleaker picture: 49 percent of China’s students admit to being bullies, and a whopping 87 percent report being the victims of bullying.
The report said several factors were associated with bullying, especially peer pressure, family troubles, feelings of insecurity and increased time spent online. Family income showed little correlation.
Regulations Not a Fix
The aphrodisiac incident occurred during China’s Two Sessions, making the severity of school violence a hot topic during the government meeting.
Members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) argued there is too little intervention in school bullying and appealed for tougher laws. Others argued that the solution lies in education.
China has no specific laws targeting school violence: the latest amendments to criminal law only target teachers who abuse students. Although some argue a harsher punishment might curb school violence, legal professionals and teachers say punishments fail to address the underlying causes of bullying.
Shi Changjie, supervisor of the Sichuan Bar Association, told Beijing News there is no need for the law to fight school violence, and that the government should be especially careful in criminalizing juvenile actions.
“If the law is too tough, that one mistake could stick with a child his entire life,” Shi told Beijing News.
Liu Chaoying, a Beijing-based psychological counselor, told CNN she believed psychological counselling services for students would be more effective.
She said that many perpetrators and victims come from families where parents and children don’t communicate openly. These children have not been able to develop healthy mechanisms to deal with and express negative emotions.
“Kids at this age may react to the smallest things with extremely brutal behavior, and they don’t necessarily understand the consequences of violence,” LIu said.
She called for parents and educators to work together to address bullying in schools, since bullying reflects deeper social problems. “Parents need to spend enough time with their children and take their responsibility as guardian seriously,” she said.
Sun Xiaoyun, researcher and deputy director at China Youth and Children Research Center, also said family education is the key. “Behind each perpetrator is a problematic family,” Sun said.