A revenge 20 years in the making

Facing the law: Chang standing trial for attacking Zhang in Henan province, China. — China Daily/Asia News Network

MINOR punishment meted out by the teachers, such as light caning or having to stand on the chair or to hold a book above the head, was quite common when I was in school.

Not sure about you, but I have been through all this.

I have never held a grudge against any of my teachers, probably because I’m from a generation that generally considers a little phy­sical punishment as an acceptable way of ensuring that “naughty” kids behave themselves.

Most importantly, I felt that such acts were not abusive.

But for Chang Renyao from central China’s Henan province, his childhood punishments at the hands of one teacher went beyond reasonable. His memories of the harsh treatment haunted him even after he grew up, got married and became a father.

In July last year, while back in his hometown for a holiday, Chang spotted his Form Two class teacher Zhang Qinglin riding a motorcycle on the street.

Chang passed his cellphone to a friend he was hanging out with and asked him to record what he was “going to do”.

Chang, 34, stopped Zhang and shouted, “Do you remember me? Do you remember how you beat me up in the past?”

As he spoke, he punched and slapped the older man several times.

The teacher apologised in a soft tone, “I beat you before, sorry.”

The clip went viral on social media sites a few months later.

Soon after that, Chang wrote an online post to explain himself.

“I know it is wrong to assault someone but I have a reason for it. It was not wrong to punish students but you bullied a person, trampled his dignity, stepped on him and kicked him because his family was poor and not powerful. Not just one time,” he alleged.

“I was only 13. I could not retaliate but I kept this in my heart. Even after I became a father, I could not get over this,” he added.

“The pain you gave me is like a nightmare. I had to seek justice.”

Last December, Chang was arrested and charged in court for provo­king trouble and undermining a social order following separate police reports lodged by the teacher and the school.

He apologised to all the teachers except Zhang, whom he claimed had regularly bullied and abused him as well as other classmates.

On July 10, Chang was sentenced to 18 months’ jail by Luanchuan County court. He had appealed the sentence.

According to local media, this was not the first time Zhang got beaten up by his former students.

He was said to be one of the school’s “Four Big Tyrants”, known for handing out harsh punishments to students, Huaxi Metropolis Daily reported.

Among the many stories that surfaced about Zhang, one told of a female student who transferred to another school after receiving his brand of punishment. It was ru­­moured that the girl dare not even go near the school after that.

However, Zhang is said to have changed and has become “friendlier” now.

According to his current students and workmates, he has not beaten anyone.

After Chang’s arrest, some 30 villagers went to the police station and gathered over 100 signatures to plead for his release.

They said Chang had helped them in many ways, including donating money to those who needed medical assistance.

He also bought a few ping pong tables for them and organised sports and chess competitions so that the villagers do not indulge in gambling, they claimed.

Chang’s belated retaliation has sparked a heated online debate.

Some people have argued that he was a bad example to the youngsters by showing such disrespect to a former teacher.

Those who support him say there is no room in schools for abusive teachers.

People have also urged the go­­vernment to come out with regulations and clear guidelines on pu­­nishment in schools.

In late 2017, a middle school teacher from northeastern Liaoning province was stabbed to death by her student after she confiscated his playing cards.

It was reported that Zhu Lixia was stabbed four times in her neck in the classroom and died next to her desk.

After that, the 15-year-old student tried to take his own life but was prevented from doing so.

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