How Microblogging is Shedding Light on Child Abuse in China – The Human Flesh Search

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Euro-America has long been at the forefront of protecting children’s rights and battling child abuse, and considering China’s (and Asia’s in general) traditional outlook on child discipline, it is not surprising that Chinese laws are subsequently vague surrounding the issue of child rights. But time’s are a changing! In the past few years or so, more and more child abuse cases have been brought to light on the mainland, and organizations aimed at battling child abuse have been popping up in many places. But what is fuelling this new exposure of child abuse?

As many of you might already know, China has one of the most active and largest internet communities in the world (at over 500 million), and this especially true in the world of microblogging. In recent years, with the rise of the popularity of mircoblogging, a new phenomenon called the “Human Flesh Search” (人肉搜搜引擎-Rénròu sōu sōu yǐnqíng) has come out. Despite the rather graphic title, this new process of sharing information online generally works toward positive purposes, such as catching criminals or exposing unlawful acts. Essentially, you could say it is a way of using the virality of the internet (and the passions of its netizens) to get “righteous” results. And this is just how child-abuse cases are being exposed. For example, a quite recent flesh search was conducted against a kindergarten teacher in Zhejiang province, after photos were spread over the internet of the teacher lifting a boy clean off the ground by his ears. You can read more on this case here.

Unfortunately, despite the increased exposure of these events, the crimes themselves are not really being dealt with properly. In fact, it is hard to say wether they are in fact “crimes” at all, since under Chinese law, as commented in an article from News China, “right now, China now lacks any legal framework for dealing with child abuse.” To make things even more difficult, physical discipline (even if it means a small tap on the hand) has long been a part of Chinese culture and parenting, and the border between light discipline and actual abuse is likely rather grey. This makes it hard for authorities to exactly draw a line between what is acceptable and what isn’t. On the upside, as more of these abuse cases are exposed and netizen’s reactions continue to be passionate, we are likely to see more pressure towards the forming of adequate laws, and a change for the better in handling child abuse.

To get a taste of parental discipline in China, check out this week’s Elementary lesson, “Don’t Spank the Kid“.


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S Chen

About S Chen

Director of My Learning Club Pty Ltd. Owner of Learn Chinese Cairns
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