Probe after Taiwan students eat fire, step on glass

Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:33am EDT
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TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Authorities in Taiwan said Thursday they would investigate a private training center after receiving testimony and videos showing that children were made to swallow fire and step on glass to build up their courage.

Given videos and testimony from parents of the Mai-teh International Intelligence Research Institute, the city of Tainan in south Taiwan said in a statement it would probe the training center for possible violations of laws governing minors.

The center, licensed as a consultancy and about two years old, had admitted more than 100 people of varied ages to build up their courage via what parents said amounted to corporal punishment, a city government news official said.

A Tainan city councilor and several parents brought the case to local media, prompting the probe.

"My child was forced to split wood with his bare hands and wanted to die," one mother said via local television.

Students paid T$30,000 ($932) per half year for the after school courses, Taiwan's China Times newspaper reported.

"Because the company had always stressed that it was a confidence training school and that only with a strong heart could children see achievements, it had to do things to build up courage," the statement said.

"If there were violations of rules covering minors, we will handle the case according to law," it said.

The training center was closed Thursday and phones went unanswered, complicating the probe, the city said.

Extreme confidence-building courses are generally reserved for military units, such as the U.S. Marine Corps, and involve challenging exercises designed to overcome fear of accidents.

(Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Sugita Katyal)