China / Hot Issues

Recalls of school punishments rouse Web community

By An Baijie and Tan ZongYang (China Daily) Updated: 2012-06-09 07:58

A heated debate over school violence has arisen after two female alumnae of a Nanjing primary school began writing on popular social-networking websites about sad memories of their childhoods.

Zhang Zaoli, who now works at Northwestern University in the United States, published an article on the Chinese social-networking sites Renren and Douban on June 1, saying she had experienced the "darkest years of her life" while studying in Nanjing Lasalu Primary School in East China's Jiangsu province from 1997 to 1999.

The school, which is popular among parents, was accused in Zhang's article of putting too much academic pressure on pupils, subjecting children to violence and torture, and humiliating students in public.

Zhang wrote that she and her classmates would see their exams ranked by their teachers and then those results posted to classroom walls.

"Before the recent International Children's Day, a lot of my friends wrote articles about their childhoods, and that triggered my memories," she said on Thursday. "I was so depressed, and I couldn't help crying.

"What I hated most is that teachers would punch me hard in my chest," she wrote in the article. "I was an adolescent with a developing body, and the punches hurt me every time and made me feel ashamed and cry."

Li Xuan, a doctoral student at Cambridge University who used to study at the primary school, posted writings about similar memories on Renren on June 1.

"I found out I wasn't the only one who was ashamed of being graduated from the Nanjing Lasalu Primary School," Li said in her article after reading Zhang's story.

Li said the school headmaster used to grab her by the collar in the hallway, making it difficult for her to breathe, a punishment she had to endure because she had failed to give a file to the headmaster in a timely manner.

The two articles spread quickly on the Internet, eliciting many comments. A large number of computer users wrote of similar experiences.

Zhang said she and Li received Internet threats after they had written about their memories of the school.

The Nanjing education bureau responded to the comments on Wednesday, saying it was pointless to discuss events that had happened more than a decade ago. It also said the students ought to show gratitude, according to a report of the Beijing News.

A female official from the Nanjing education bureau's publicity department said on Friday that the local government has required the Gulou district education bureau to investigate whether violence still occurs in the school.

Phone calls to the Lasalu Primary School went unanswered on Friday.

Shi Xiaoying, an English teacher at Lasalu Primary School, said neither she nor her colleagues have ever beaten a student.

Shi said it is difficult to say if the articles make sound accusations. The events they speak of happened more than a decade ago, she said.

"It was common in the 1990s for teachers to beat students, especially in rural schools," Yuan Rongsheng, a 41-year-old teacher at a primary school in Wanshituan township of Wulian county in Shandong province, said.

But some students expressed gratitude for the punishments after they grew up,Yuan added.

Zhang said that, most of all, she hates to hear people say things such as, "Without (the punishments you received at) Lasalu Primary School, you might never have been able to enroll in Tsinghua University".

"Such a cause-and-effect relationship can't be taken as being granted," she said. "The only thing I'm certain of is that if I had not studied in Lasalu Primary School, I would be a much happier, confident and serene person."

Song Wenwei and Cang Wei in Nanjing contributed to this story.

Contact the writers at and

Hot Topics