You Win Education has more than 1,200 branches in China. However, the company was struggling to pay its staff in recent months and suddenly shut down on Oct. 17. Outraged by the company’s abrupt closure, staff members and clients protested in front of the headquarters in Beijing, demanding for unpaid wages and refunds. Then a clash erupted between protesters and police. At least one person was taken away by the authorities.
You Win Education has been in the tutoring business for more than 20 years, offering tutoring services for students ages 6 to 18 years old. The company has more than 1,200 offices across the country, with at least 70 in Beijing. However, since the second half of 2019, there were reports of arrears of refunds and wages, according to state-run media Xinhua.
You Win was struggling to pay salaries and allegedly owes nearly 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) in wages and refunds to its employees and clients, according to Chinese media reports.
On Oct. 19, hundreds of parents and teachers gathered at the headquarters of You Win Education in Beijing’s Chaoyang business district, demanding refunds and wages. The protest was caught on video and uploaded on Twitter. The police were at the scene and had set up a cordon. The crowd shouted, “Return the money!” Then a clash erupted between the protesters and police. At least one protester was taken away and the crowd demanded the police to release him.
Jin Yan (a pseudonym), a You Win tutor at the Chaoyang branch, told The Epoch Times that the crowd was waiting for a company representative to come and give an explanation about the company’s sudden closure, but no one showed up. It was not until later that a member of the Chaoyang district labor and social security department arrived.
Jin Yan said that hundreds of people were at the scene. The building was packed, and many had to gather outside. There were more than 100 teachers present. She heard that some parents were removed by the police and others remained on the premises until that evening.
To her knowledge, some high school students were upset because their parents had paid two to three hundred thousand yuan ($30,000 to $45,000) in advance for tutoring services.
Caught by Surprise
Chen Ping (pseudonym), a tutor at the Beijing Jinsong branch, told The Epoch Times that company officials announced the closure while they were teaching in class. She said it was hard to believe. “We are still in session, [but we learn] in one telephone conference the school is closed. All employees’ wages in arrears were canceled.”
The Jinsong branch was one of the first and also one of the largest You Win offices set up in Beijing. Chen Ping has worked there for more than two years.
Chen Ping said that last winter, the administrators at the Jinsong branch revamped the pay structure. The base salary was removed and the hourly rate was reduced. Starting this March, there have been wages in arrears and teachers received very low monthly wages, as little as a few hundred yuan. In the first half of the year alone, the branch has owed their employees one to two million yuan ($150,000 to $300,000) in wages, an average of 70 to 80 thousand yuan ($10,000 to $12,000) for each teacher, Chen said.
Chen Ping said, “Before November, we were told that the July wages in arrears will be distributed in October and November. They will be paid in full. … We believed that once the pandemic is over, the situation would be okay. The teachers were fooled, and they kept on teaching until the 17th when they were told the school is closed.”
Chen Ping said that after her branch was closed on Oct. 17, more than 70 other branches in Beijing all closed the next day.
State media Xinhua reported that on Oct. 18, clients received the news that You Win’s Beijing headquarters closed down. However, the company made an official announcement on its Weibo account, stating: “You Win will get better and the company did not go bankrupt.”
Clients Just Paid for Tutoring Services
You Win owed refunds to its clients. Chinese media reported that most clients have deposited tens of thousands of yuan.
Chen Ping explained that since last year, You Win had a promotional program that required clients to pay in advance for tutoring services that would last for up to five years.
She said, “We were closed on the 17th, but there are kids who paid the fee on Oct. 14.”
One parent whose child receives tutoring services from You Win’s office in Guangqumen in Beijing told Chinese media that the branch owed as much as 9 million yuan ($1.4 million) in refunds to its clients.
You Win CEO Cannot Be Held Accountable
Chinese media reported that the head of You Win Education is Chen Hao. However, the company recently replaced its legal person with Chen’s elderly mother, who is in her 70’s. In other words, it would be difficult to hold Chen Hao legally responsible for any financial losses.
Chen Ping said that she went to the local labor and social security bureau on Oct. 19 and it was packed with You Win employees. The labor and social security bureau could only advise them to seek legal counsel.
Chen Hao recorded himself in a video, saying that he would not abandon the company. The video was played at the company’s headquarters in Beijing, Chen Ping said.
The headquarters staff asked the families to continue paying the fee so that the teachers can get paid and resume teaching, she added.
According to various Chinese reports, Chen Hao was nowhere to be found after You Win announced bankruptcy.
Since the pandemic, many after school programs in China went bankrupt.
A recent survey by the Chinese Association for Non-Government Education was conducted among 1,459 educational institutions. The results show that during the pandemic, 29 percent of those surveyed may go bankrupt; 36.6 percent have temporarily suspended their operations; 25.4 percent are facing financial difficulty and can barely continue operating. The report also showed that 79 percent of the surveyed institutions can only afford to remain in business for only three months.