A disturbing video of a school teacher brutally hitting a ninth-grade student after the latter dozed off in a classroom at a school in China has gone viral on social media.

The teacher, whose full identity has not been revealed, is surnamed Ma. Meanwhile, the student has been identified by his family name, Liu.

The incident took place at a school in Zhaotong, Yunnan province in southwestern China on May 10, and only came to light after someone put a video of the act on Chinese video-sharing platform Douyin.

The video shows the teacher grabbing the boy by his hair and shaking him awake. He then pushes Liu onto the floor and kicks him before throwing him out of the class.

"After seeing me dozing off, the teacher came over and hit me," Liu later said. "Our other teachers usually tell a sleeping student to stand up and listen to the lesson, but our headteacher was rather grumpy," he added, according to the South China Morning Post.

Chinese media reports state that the boy's family was not aware of the incident and only came to know about it through social media.

"For more than 10 days after my brother was beaten, neither the school nor the local education department contacted me or other relatives," said his elder brother. "My brother did not dare to tell us what happened, and I was heartbroken after seeing the video."

He further stated that this was not the first time that Ma had hit Liu, but it was not this vicious before. "Ma slapped him several times previously, but not as hard as this time," he said.

The school did not initially take action against Ma and he continued to take classes before the video went viral on social media. The local authorities eventually took action against the teacher and transferred him to a non-teaching job.

China had banned corporal punishment in 1986. Caning, verbal abuse and forcing students to stand or kneel on the floor for hours are not allowed in Chinese schools. However, the ban has not been able to completely stop school teachers from resorting to corporal punishment when things get too much for them to handle.

In 2021, the Chinese Ministry of Education banned punishments in schools that could cause physical or mental trauma. The decision was taken after the country reported a significant increase in the number of student deaths linked to harsh discipline in institutions.

China school
A school in China. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images