According to the South China Morning Post, police in southwestern China have launched an investigation into Enbo MMA Club in Chengdu, which is allegedly training hundreds of orphaned children.
On Sunday, Pear Video published a report profiling the mixed martial arts club, including interviews with two of the boys and footage of a cage fight where 12-year-olds pummel each other without head protection in front of a public audience.
The six minute video, which has now been viewed millions of times on Chinese social media platforms, doesn’t make it clear if the fights are commercial but claims that as many as 400 orphans have been trained at Enbo in the past 16 years.
Two of the clubs members, Xiao Long (14) and Xiao Wu (14), both from the impoverished area of Liangshan, in Sichuan province, say that while the daily training is intensive, life at Enbo is better than at home. Both harness dreams of one day competing in the UFC.
“There is everything here – food, clothes and a place to live,” says Wu, who has been at the club for three years. “The food here is much better. There is beef and eggs but I can only have potatoes at home.”
Wang Zhou, a coach at Enbo, claims in the video that the children are paid “more or less” but would not reveal how much. “When they need money, we’ll give it to them.” Speaking to the Beijing Youth Daily ( h/t SCMP) on Monday, club supervisor Zhu Guanghui confirmed the police investigation and said the club was cooperating.
The club’s founder, Enbo, a Tibetan and former armed police officer who lost his own father when he was 8 years old, said all the children were adopted legally via the Chinese Civil Affairs Bureau. ECNS reports that Enbo started the club with the goal of helping the orphaned children he encountered in his time on the job.
The debate concerning the Endo Club also raises broader questions about poverty and inequity across the country. The New Straits Times reports that China had 500,000 orphans at the end of 2015, with the majority left unadopted or cared for by the state. What happens to the kids that don’t end up at the gym or those that leave when they no longer meet the physical requirements?
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