As anger swells around a Chinese kindergarten accused of abusing its toddlers, online discussion about the topic has been systematically deleted.
Earlier this week, the RYB Education New World kindergarten in Beijing was accused of feeding drugs to toddlers, and injecting them with unknown substances.
Outside of Beijing, the group runs over 500 kindergartens in China.
Parents have started protesting and circulating alleged photos of abuse online.
But comments and posts about the topic are disappearing on Chinese social media, which the state monitors and scrubs of objectionable content regularly.
A search for “RYB kindergarten,” which in Chinese is known as “红黄蓝 (Red Yellow Blue)”, showed that people were actively sharing and clicking on posts about the kindergarten, yet the comment sections were curiously silent — a sign that comments had been deleted.
In the Weibo post below by the Beijing News, it’s clear the post has been liked almost 29,000 times and shared 2,620. Yet there are only four innocuous comments left behind.
Similarly, this post by Sina, the parent company of Weibo, shows a discussion about the kindergarten yielded 2846 likes, 1314 shares and just 13 comments.
Outside Weibo’s social media platform, news aggregator Toutiao’s post yielded over 2000 comments, 900 shares, and just 59 comments.
And even though this Sina post has a pretty high number of comments coming in at 730, it’s still pretty disproportionate to the 154,876 likes and over 18,000 shares it received.
A quick search on Weiboscope, a University of Hong Kong project that tracks censorship on Weibo revealed that there was a spike in the number of censored posts on Nov. 27.
The main words that were being censored on that day were “kindergarten” and “Beijing.”
According to Weiboscope, some 27.7 of 10,000 posts were deleted on that day. That might not sound like much, but considering posts on Weibo can go well into the millions in just one day, that could be 2,770 posts of every one million posts being deleted.
Posts on Weibo get deleted by the government’s censorship board, which deletes posts both automatically by offending keyword, and manually with an army of workers.
According to Weiboscope, the website on average censors about 7 of 10,000 posts — significantly lower than the 27.7 messages of every 10,000 that were deleted on Nov 27.
This could indicate the scale of censorship for this kindergarten saga has been massively ramped up.
The kindergarten case has set off mass outrage. Parents have claimed that some of their children had been fed unidentified tablets in school, and some been subjected to “medical check-ups” by a naked adult male.
Police have since announced that some of these claims were fabricated, but noted that a teacher suspected of using knitting needles to prick and discipline children has been detained on criminal charges.
RYB has also fired the headmaster of its Beijing kindergarten.
China’s education ministry has launched an investigation into kindergartens nationwide, with Beijing authorities saying they would send permanent inspectors to nurseries across the city.