A former teacher recently called out her local government on social media, saying she did not have her contract renewed and was put on a blacklist after she exposed a case of child sex abuse.
In May, when He Siyun was a teacher at Siwang Town Central Primary School, a public school in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, she heard from female pupils that a male employee at an overnight child care center had been molesting them.
He reported this to the police, and the employee, who also worked as a teacher at a middle school, was soon arrested and later sentenced to prison. But He’s school did not renew her contract when it expired in September, claiming her teaching certification was fake.
Then on Oct. 15, police stopped He at the train station as she was boarding a train to Nanning, Guangxi’s capital, because her name appeared on a list of known drug addicts.
On Tuesday, He posted on her WeChat Moments, the messaging app’s Facebook-like social feed, calling for an investigation into why she had been put on that list and why her contract had not been renewed; she also asked for public recognition for reporting the abuse. “I want the local government to respond to my questions directly,” she told Sixth Tone on Thursday.
He said that on May 25, she heard several girls tell a colleague that a male employee at the dorm had sexually abused them. “I was so angry when I heard the girls were being harassed, some of them for as long as two years,” He said. She urged her colleague to call the police, but they instead reported the incident to the school’s headmaster, who did not immediately act.
With no intervention, the pupils returned that evening to the center, which houses left-behind children whose parents migrate to faraway places for work.
The following day, He sent messages to Li Jieqing, the director of the Pingnan Education Bureau, the county authority in charge of schools in Siwang. When Li did not respond, He called the police. Li eventually replied, telling He she should urge parents to report the case. The headmaster later testified that he had also called the police on May 26, claiming he had needed time to investigate.
After the teacher was arrested, several government officials visited He in person to ask her to stop talking about the case in public, she said. Then in June, China Youth Daily broke the story. He helped with the report but was not mentioned in it by name.
Several days later, the school asked He to turn in her teaching certification, which the county education bureau subsequently determined to be fake.
He said she obtained her certificate from a training center when she was in college, and that she had never had any trouble in the past. “I used this certificate when I applied for the second-degree teaching qualification, which was approved in 2016,” she said. She also passed an earlier check when she applied for the position at the primary school.
A Pingnan County government statement from September said He failed a routine check of teachers’ certificates in April, and that the inspection had not been solely directed at her. He, however, refuted this. “The school notified me — and only me — to hand in the original version of the teacher’s certificate again on June 9,” she said.
He Siyun’s teaching certification, which includes an official red stamp from the education bureau in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, June 9, 2017. Courtesy of He Siyun
He’s certificate, seen by Sixth Tone, shows that it was issued and stamped in July 2011 by the education bureau of Guilin, the city in Guangxi where He went to university. The city’s certification database does not date as far back as July 2011, and a call to the education bureau went unanswered on Friday.
He calls the school not renewing her contract “lawful revenge” for speaking out.
Li Jieqing, the director of the Pingnan Education Bureau, told Sixth Tone that the investigation had concluded and directed Sixth Tone to contact the publicity department of the Pingnan County government. That department told Sixth Tone on Thursday that members of the media do not need permission to interview Li. Afterward, Li’s phone could no longer be reached.
Following wide media coverage, a court in September convicted Tan Jiaquan, the employee who abused the girls at the care center, to four years in prison for child molestation. The primary school’s headmaster was removed from his position, and three education bureau officials were disciplined — including Li, who was given a “persuasion and admonition” talk, according to a Pingnan County government notice dated Sept. 9.
He wrote several posts about her story on her Weibo microblog in August, receiving hundreds of thousands of views and countless supportive comments. “The education bureau head who did nothing was only given a talk, but a teacher who stood out and did what she thinks is right is fired?” asked one Weibo user. “What kind of values does this local education bureau pass on? What are they teaching the next generation?”
After He posted on Oct. 15 about being barred from taking the train, the county police station responded a week later on its WeChat public account saying it was “following regulations to verify her identity and check her belongings.” It added that “the national drug addicts database does not have He’s record.”
He, however, tells a different story. “I was sent to a police box and told I was on the list of drug addicts,” He said. “A police officer told me I am ‘famous’ and that I should not travel for the time being.” The police officers canceled and refunded her ticket. Later, after receiving approval from a higher-ranking official, they let He buy another ticket and continue her trip.
Liu Wenhua, a lawyer at Yunnan Liu Wenhua Law Firm, told Sixth Tone that if He is telling the truth, the officials responsible for placing her on the drug addicts list could be guilty of abuse of power.
He has deleted most of her Weibo posts since August because she “felt great pressure.” Now working as a secretary in Nanning, she said she has moved on with her life. “I want to start over after what I’ve been through,” she said. “I don’t want to be a teacher anymore.”
Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: Shi Yukun/VCG)