Peer Abuse in China: School Bullying


Photo credit:Ben White.

t seems that the education system is moving in a positive direction in China. Old policies are being perfected and new policies are being developed everyday, and with rapid economic growth our material life is improving everyday. With better distribution of educational resources and the introduction of a variety of new methods and technologies into schools, it seems that anyone who condemns that our students are not “happy enough” is making a significant mistake.

However, though students are having a better material life, there is no significant improvement on their mental health status. In China, 30 million children and teenagers are troubled by emotional disorder and mental behavior problems.

School bullying makes it even worse. 

School bullying has become a social problem that is receiving more attention each year, which should mean that things are improving. However, when we look at some statistics, things seems to be worse than we thought.

We must be aware of school bullying happening around us.

We must know how to protect ourselves and help others.

We must stop bullying in schools.


What are the Statistics?

2%~66%  of students in China are bullied at school


2%-34% of school-age kids are bullies

6.1% reported they are usually bullied

32.5% reported they are sometimes bullied

Boys are more likely to be bullied

51.3% of school bullying cases involves in cliques and fights

22.5% involved in demanding of extortion money

In Nanjing, numbers of serious violence incidents on school campuses has doubled each yearand 30% of those cases are caused by school bullying

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What are the real cases?

I searched for school bullying cases in 2016 online and found some incidents that sounds almost irrational and pathetic. Even though these are extreme examples, many of us have witnessed similar things in our lives.

· On June 21st, 2016, a severe school bullying happened when nine girls aged from 12-16 beat up another girl in Yongxin, Jiangxi Province. Three of them were elementary school students, four are middle school students, and the other were drop-outs.

· Three boys and seven girls forced a girl to get off from her bike and go into the alley, when they stripped off her clothes and attracted over 20 onlooking students .

· In the afternoon on November 23rd, a video became extremely popular in social media apps like QQ and WeChat. In the 6-minute-long video, a girl in school uniform was slapped in the face for 38 times by a group of peer girl students.

· A 16-year-old student Huang has been repeatedly beaten by his classmates ever since he was in fifth grade. He couldn’t endure it when he was sent to hospital and had to have a splenectomy because his spleen was bleeding so bad.

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The narration of R, one of my friends and the bullied child in a Chinese middle school, retold her story of being alienated in primary school.

“Those girls did nothing but gossip all day. They expected you to be everything like them. If you can’t blend in, you got kicked out and laughed at. “

Her voice was calm and stable when she was narrating her story. But I could see her fists clenching until her knuckles were white.

“I didn’t like comics, and I didn’t like those story books. I was precocious. I read Tolstoy, I was in the chorus, I was an athlete in the school team. No one of them did what I had done, and no one of them wanted to. And that was why they couldn’t beat me in every aspect.”

“Our class teacher liked my grades and wanted me to be the class monitor. I should have refused. But I didn’t. The other popular girl M in their gang wanted the place, too. But the teacher would
n’t let her. So they blocked me on my way home. They threatened me to ‘give up my power’ or ‘you’ll see it. Who cares? “

“Then on the next day, the whole class refused to talk to me. When I walked into the classroom, the atmosphere turned cold immediately. I tried to talk to the person sitting in front of me, but he seemed to be deaf. On the afternoon of that day, my best friend sent me a message and told me that M demanded them to stay away from me, and I must keep a secret.”

“The whole class had built a huge piece ice in front of my face, and I had no ability to climb over it. Whenever I saw M walking towards me, I could always see her eyebrows raising angrily, as if I was a detesting dog or plague. Others even avoided eye contact.”

“Every day, I walked to school by myself; I went to the dining hall by myself; I went home by myself. The only time that I talk was when the teacher had a question, I would raise my hand as quickly as I could and burst out the answer in a low voice, so as to no one could have the chance to stare at me like they were seeing a psychopath.”

“I didn’t know what happened. I just felt sad and the world being tear apart, one was white and one was black. My mom sent me to hospital, where I lived in wards and had medicine everyday. They told me it was depression. I didn’t know depression, but I knew M’s face and everyone’s backs haunted in every dream of mine.”

“It was the worst period of my life. It was worse than complete isolation, since no one commented on you on a real isolated island. I thought I would rather choose death.”

R’s story was quite representative in many ways, and I myself has been alienated when I was in kindergarten. A lot of people experience school bullying, and the experience vary only its extent — whether you got depression or not, you got trauma on your heart.

The following video showed some of the most violent school bullying situations. If you are afraid that the video might trigger traumatic memories, please feel free to skip it.

We found similarities and patterns in those school bullying cases and saw the harm of school bullying. Researchers have found that school bullying causes serious physical and mental trauma. Students who were bullies can be very aggressive and have a distinctive high crime rate, while those being bullied suffer from studying and mental problems, such as anxiety, depression, avoidance, loneliness and low self-esteem(Bender & Lösel, 2011; Chan & Wong, 2015). Attending a school where bullying is common also creates senses of instability in other students’ lives. 

Right now, there are different understandings towards school bullying. Some take it as “wear and tear” rite of passage of growing up; some remains neutral, believing that school bullying is a kind of misbehavior which harms both the bullies and the bullied; while some think school bullying is an extremely serious moral and societal problem which leads to juvenile crime and psychological disorder.

Obviously, a common understanding and recognition of school bullying is needed, which means that we need a clearer definition of school bullying first.

What is the definition?

According to the Department for Education and Skills in UK, there is no legal definition of bullying. However, it’s usually defined as behaviour that is:

  • repeated
  • intended to hurt someone either physically or emotionally
  • often aimed at certain groups, eg because of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation

It takes many forms and can include:

  • physical assault
  • teasing
  • making threats
  • name calling
  • cyberbullying – bullying via mobile phone or online (eg email, social networks and instant messenger)

School bullying may also have these traits and consequences:

– School bullying happens both inside and outside of the campus.

– Not only students, but also teachers and other social personnel can be involved in school bullying.

– School bullying can destroy a student both physically and mentally.

– School bullying can brought either severe or subtle consequences.

– School bullying can happen sporadically or continuously.


What caused it?

You may wonder what gave rise to school bullying. There are several factors that may contribute to school bullying:

First of all, the fast-developing society has too much instabilities that influenced schools and children negatively. 

Right now, it is not hard to find cases of student leaders abusing their power and demanding “bribes”. Mammonism, hedonism and strong individualism are becoming more and more popular even in primary schools, where rich students have the most popularity in classes and are always being look up to by others. Frauds and coercion, which are very common among adults, are not rare in schools either.

Moreover, dysfunctional families can also cause distortion or lack of moral principles.

With the rising of divorce rate, the number of single-parent children has grew quickly. The lack of parents has altered the traditional and stable family configuration, which deprives the possibility of receiving proper moral education. Similarly, migrant children and left-behind children are usually more likely to have busy parents who have no time to care for their mental health. As a result, these children may either being bullied because of the lack of protection, or become bullies.

Photo Credit: Media Library

In addition, the growth of anti-school sentiments has affected students’ thoughts, since their self-control is not well-developed. 

Students who feel being extendedly controlled by school would reinforce their actions against school education by creating their own culture and environment that are against the school’s values. These values were more likely to encourage misbehaviors including school bullying.

Last but not least, the lack of regulation has been the significant factor of the rising school bullying rate.

When facing school bullying, morality courses can provide little help with its overemphasis on concepts rather than the practicals. Principals of schools usually want to keep things quiet and try to eliminate the conflict rather than fighting on behalf of justice. If we turn to the law for  protection, it turns out that the judicial system in China is very “friendly” to minors. Bullies will not be punished by law as long as they don’t “go to far”.


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What can we do?

If you are an official…

Set up relevant law. This method is practiced by a lot of countries and has received many successful experiences.

For example, the Japanese government has established the Anti-School Bullying Law. In order to accurately understand the situation, the government must collect first-hand school bullying data. Once the relevant data is collected, specialized laws should be developed and established, which calls for all parts of the society to take part in fighting school bullying. The power and rights of students, teachers, schools and the society should also be clearly defined, so as to give teachers and schools the evidences and courage to punish perpetuators. Responsibilities are needed to be elaborated and specified in the law, so that the bullies are aware of the consequences of their behaviors.


If you are a principal…

First of all, you should make sure all students must be aware of the severeness and seriousness of law and rules. They should also know how to help themselves when they are bullied. Teachers must be taught how to deal with bullying cases, and schools should provide different online platforms for students to get access to safety information.

Moreover,  school administrators should be given the rights to prevent specific bullying cases from further deterioration. Bullying must be repressed in time to mitigate trauma.

Last but not least, psychological counseling offices should be widely used to heal the wounds and correct misconceptions.


If you are a parent of a school-aged kid…

Tell your kid what to do when they are bullied. Prepare them and teach them how to protect themselves before bullying happens, so that they won’t panic.

Listen to what your kid said. Please at least arrange 10 minutes a day to listen to your kid talking about what is happening at school. Teenage kids can especially hide their annoyances. If you are missing their words, you are almost missing everything.

Keep in touch with school, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You should keep in touch with your kid’s class teacher every month. If you find anything wrong with your child, contact him/her at once, so that the problem won’t deteriorate fast.


If you are a student who want to avoid being bullied…

Talk to your teachers and your parents at once if you are being bullied at school. Always remember that being bullied is not your fault. Anybody has the possibility to be bullied at some time in their lives, and it is not your fault to be bullied.

The following video provides 10 ways to defend yourself from a bully.




If you are a student keen on preventing school bullying…

You may be an activist of 蓝手结. 蓝手结 is a Chinese organization that focuses on dealing with school bullying by media impact and legal approaches.

You can make a difference by helping friends being bullied at school. Stand by them and listen to their stories. Believe it or not, your choice really MAKES A DIFFERENCE, and the world is far more beautiful without bullying.



If you are a responsible citizen…

Click here to share your commitment to anti-bullying!

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Let’s make the world a better place.


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