Online video of two 14-year-olds in a boxing ring raises questions
Officials from a remote part of Sichuan province have launched an investigation after two local boys appeared in a viral video about a fight club for orphans and "left-behind" children in Sichuan.
Child welfare and education officials from the Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture have been sent to Enbo Fight Club, which claims to have adopted and trained about 400 children since 2001.
The move comes after a video was shared online on Thursday featuring two 14-year-olds from Liangshan's Butuo county fighting in a ring similar to the kind used for mixed martial arts.
During short interviews, the boys said they were "adopted" by the club and occasionally perform as part of commercial events.
They say the training is hard but add that they do not have to worry about food, clothes or shelter at the club, where they can eat beef and eggs. In their home village, they can eat only potatoes, they say.
Butuo is one of the least developed areas in Liangshan, which has a number of isolated villages, according to Song Ming, an information officer with the prefecture's government.
Opinions among those who have watched the video have been divided. Some argued that the children can learn life skills to support themselves in the future, while others accused the club of exploitation and said the children were being deprived of access to an education.
The Liangshan government will work with Chengdu police to look into the boys' welfare, according to Lin Shucheng, the prefecture's Party chief.
If the club has violated the compulsory education law, it will be dealt with, he said.
Song added that the Butuo education bureau would take the two children back to continue their schooling if any offence is discovered.
En Bo, founder of the club, is a former SWAT soldier from Sichuan's Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture. He said he came from a poor family and lost his father at the age of 8. Because of that experience, he wanted to help impoverished children, he said.
However, Xu Bin, a top lawyer with Junyi Law Office in Chengdu, cast doubt on claims that the club legally adopted the children.
"It is impossible for its owner to adopt so many kids," he said.