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In China, violent orphans’ fighting is being debated

Ⓒ AFP – Fred DUFOUR – | Two young boys train mixed martial arts (MMA) in Chengdu in china, June 2, 2017

The 13-year-old wrestler starts his day at 8 am. A quick breakfast, then he goes to join a dozen other very young boys who face each other in a gymnasium in Chengdu, south-west China.

Abieamu, originally from the Tibetan plateau, was “adopted” by the Enbo Fight Club as many poor children from the same region to practice mixed martial arts (MMA), a combat sport prohibited in several countries, including France .

With fists and kicks, these young barely teenagers, bare-chested, grow and cling until their opponent falls to the ground.

Ⓒ AFP – Fred DUFOUR – | Young boys train mixed martial arts (MMA) in Chengdu, China on June 2, 2017

Many of them are orphans from ethnic minorities. They were put in contact with the club by the local civil affairs office.

As the activities of the club are generally approved by the authorities. Even though the local police just opened an investigation about him after a video that went around China was broadcast. There are two 14-year-old boys fighting in an octagon, the ring used in MMA competitions, surrounded by a screaming crowd.

– Pocket money –

One of them knocks his opponent down, then strikes him on the head, while the latter tries to curl up on the mattress.

Bikini mannequins encourage the fighters as a host heats the crowd by explaining that the opponents “are fighting for their lives”.

“These kids are stronger than yours! Their story is more touching than your children’s and they’ve drooled it,” he yells.

Ⓒ AFP – Fred DUFOUR – | Young boys train mixed martial arts (MMA) in Chengdu, China on June 2, 2017

The images sparked debate on the social network Weibo, “Chinese Twitter”.

“To incite minors to engage in violent commercial performances, without even paying them, is illegal,” denounced a surfer named Chen Ming.

But others argue that without the help of the club, the children would be on the street, delivered to criminal networks.

In Bo, the owner of the club, ensures that the children are lodged, fed and clothed by the establishment, which gives them pocket money when they win a fight.

“There is a team that takes care of their health and safety and the teachers who ensure their schooling,” said Tibetan, a former soldier who spent the past 18 years organizing amateur MMA fights.

– ‘Not afraid’ –

Its “Enbo Fight Club” has some 200 members, whose children are only a small part. Most of them have returned to their home region, where they continue their sports training, assured AFP a coach of the club in response to the outcry sparked by the video.

Ⓒ AFP – Fred DUFOUR – | Two young boys wait in their hotel room before attending a mixed martial arts (MMA) training in Chengdu, China on June 2, 2017

The Chengdu authorities were not available to comment on this information.

The shouts of the spectators, the pale neon lights, the short-clad models, do not disturb Jihushuojie, a 12-year-old boy who joined the club a year and a half ago.

“I’m not really afraid of being injured,” he told AFP at a meeting last month. “Before a fight, I feel relaxed and full of energy.”

China has about half a million orphans, according to figures from 2015. Less than one fifth of them are state-bred and about 5% adopted. The fate of others is not clearly established.

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