China parenting: rock star Zheng Jun in child abuse scandal claims son’s 1,000 kowtow ‘punishment’ was ‘Buddhist ritual’

·3-min read

A Chinese rock star who boasted online about punishing his son for lying by ordering him to kowtow 1,000 times or face being physically assaulted has found himself at the centre of a public backlash.

Earlier this week, Beijing-based singer Zheng Jun revealed on Weibo that he forced his 11-year-old son to kowtow to him 1,000 times after catching him lying.

After doing 200 kowtows, the boy asked if there was another form of punishment available. Zheng gave him a choice between being physically assaulted or sitting cross-legged in an uncomfortable yoga stretch for an hour.

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The boy chose to sit cross-legged in the yoga pose. In the final 10 minutes, the boy cried loudly and shouted “I dare not lie anymore”, Zheng boasted on Weibo on Sunday.

Chinese rock singer Zheng Jun and his son in happier times. Photo: Zaker
Chinese rock singer Zheng Jun and his son in happier times. Photo: Zaker

However, the boy was made to continue sitting in the pose while his father was nearby recording the punishment on video.

The public backlash to Zheng’s treatment of his child was swift and harsh; internet users were quick to call out the punishment as child abuse.

“The boy is young. Excessive punishment will not yield positive results,” wrote one person on Weibo.

“What the father did is a blow to the son’s self-esteem,” another user commented.

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Following the public backlash, Zheng edited his social media post and advised other parents not to follow his example, but also tried to justify his actions by saying his son practises cross-legged yoga poses regularly and: “Can do it easily for half an hour”.

However, just hours after editing the initial post, Zheng made another post on Weibo. In the new post, he claimed that the kowtow he ordered his son to perform was similar to a Tibetan Buddhism ritual of prostrating oneself on the ground, with the head, arms, and knees down on the ground. He said this kowtow form is also a “simple and effective” yoga movement.

“Sitting cross-legged is a good way to cultivate children’s concentration. My son and I kowtow together every morning and often perform leg-crossed sitting in the evening,” Zheng wrote in the post.

Zheng claimed the punishment was more like a yoga exercise after being criticised online. Photo: Zaker
Zheng claimed the punishment was more like a yoga exercise after being criticised online. Photo: Zaker

“I have never beaten my child. I have never required my child to realise any of my dreams. I just hope he becomes an honest, kind, strong and brave person,” he added.

Public opinion remained divided after Zheng’s self-justification.

“The key is not about kowtowing, but that you would force your child to do that,” one person said on Weibo.

“I hope you understand that in order to teach your child not to lie, you need to be patient and figure out why he lied, instead of simply resorting to punishment.”

Another person who sided with Zheng said: “You don’t have to care what the public thinks. I have a daughter and I beat her whenever I thought it was necessary. Now there is no problem with her. Children don’t bear grudges as long as you explain your intentions clearly to them.”

China’s Juvenile Protection Law bans parents from beating children, but in practice, few parents are prosecuted for using violence to discipline their children, except in cases where they are seriously injured physically.

In April, a video of a Chinese father forcing his 11-year-old daughter who did not want to go to school to dig for lotus in the blazing hot sun for hours was at the centre of a debate about how parents should discipline their children.

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