Beijing – Authorities in northwest China have ordered the arrest of an elementary school teacher who allegedly sexually assaulted eight girl pupils, the youngest aged 10, a state-backed newspaper said Tuesday.
Liu Junhong, 28, reportedly raped five girls and acted indecently towards another three over the past year at the school in Gansu province, the China Youth Daily said. The oldest victim was 13.
Seven of the girls were children of migrant workers who were employed far from their homes, the report said. “My mother is too far away,” one of the victims was quoted as saying.
Authorities have removed the head of Longxi county’s education bureau and punished three other officials for failing to take responsibility in the case, the report said.
It was unclear whether police had already arrested the teacher or whether they were still looking for him. Police in Longxi declined to comment when contacted by AFP. The local government and school were unavailable for comment.
The case highlights the vulnerability of so-called “left-behind children” whose parents leave them in the care of others as they seek employment far away.
In a separate newspaper report, the state-run Global Times said the sexual abuse of migrant workers’ children – typically from rural areas – was on the rise in China, though it gave no figures.
“Child sex abuse is probably more common than statistics indicate,” Wang Ling, a researcher at the Chinese Society of Education, was quoted as saying.
“It is humiliating for children to be sexually abused in Chinese society, especially for victims in conservative, rural areas,” he said, explaining why some cases go unreported.
Academics say ignorance about sex and being too trusting towards strangers – as well as a reluctance among some parents to cause a scandal and prosecute offenders – has contributed to the problem.
China has an estimated 58 million children who are looked after by carers or live on their own because their parents are working away from home, according to the All-China Women’s Federation.