Authorities in China have detained a woman suspected of abusing children at a Beijing kindergarten run by a U.S.-listed company in a case that has caused nationwide anger.
Police in Beijing's Chaoyang district said in a statement that an investigation into a kindergarten run by Beijing-based RYB Education has led to the criminal detention of a 22-year-old female teacher on suspicion of abusing children.
The statement, posted on the district police's account on the Sina Weibo microblog platform, identified the woman only by her surname, Liu, and did not provide further details.
The scandal in Beijing erupted after the influential newsmagazine Caixin and other Chinese media quoted some parents as saying their children were forced to strip as punishment and were found with unexplained apparent needle marks on their bodies.
The reported claims could not be independently verified.
Outraged parents gathered outside the school gates on Thursday to demand access to CCTV footage that might confirm the abuse.
"For two days my daughter has been crying: 'I'm not sick, so why give me shots?'" one mother told China Women's News, a party-run newspaper.
Another parent said that the children had been told to take two white tablets each day after lunch and the reason for that is unclear, The Guardian reported.
"Disobedient students were also forced to stand naked or were locked up in a dark room at the kindergarten," another parent told the magazine Caixin. "I am trembling with anger now," a parent was quoted as saying by the Beijing News.
Chaoyang police said separately that a 31-year-old Beijing woman has been detained after admitting to allegedly spreading false information about the involvement of a military regiment in sexually abusing the children. The statement said the woman, also surnamed Liu, has expressed "deep regret" for her actions.
RYB and its franchisees operate 1,300 day care centers and nearly 500 kindergartens in 300 Chinese cities, according to its website.
The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in September, joining other Chinese providers capitalizing on rising demand from the country's emerging middle class for educational services.
The allegations, coming just weeks after reports of abuse at a Shanghai day care center, raised concerns about potential lapses in supervision in the booming private preschool industry. The State Council, China's Cabinet, on Friday ordered nationwide inspections of kindergartens to review teacher conduct, citing "recent incidents in many locations."
Earlier this month, surveillance video emerged of abuse at a Shanghai day care center run by China's largest online travel company, Ctrip. The video, uploaded by angry parents on Chinese social media, showed teachers slapping a crying girl, pushing a toddler to the ground and force-feeding students a substance later confirmed to be wasabi. In April, RYB Education suspended the headmaster and two teachers at another branch in Beijing after a video of a teacher kicking children was widely shared online.