Song Shanmu & The Sun Moon Education Group Scandal

Since a social media post of ” 最牛春晚粉丝” (most outstanding Spring Gala fan) appeared on social media, a man with a big beard has been showing up in the audience at every Spring Festival Gala since 2005. The image of this person vigorously applauding every performance in his trademark bow tie, suspenders, and white top, left a lasting impression in the minds of viewers. For years, he has been a recognizable member of the audience in that annual program.

This man’s name is Song Shanmu 宋山木. Even though the social media post and the appearance on TV were believed to be staged for the sake of publicity (Song paid for his seat on the front row and also paid the TV station advertising fees to show his face in the audience), it worked。In 2010 Song was accused of rape and charged in court. Netizens turned around and mocked him of killing his own reputation by being too well-recognised on TV.

At about 3 pm on June 28 2010, the second hearing of Song Shanmu’s suspected rape case opened in the Criminal Division of the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court. The trial lasted about 4 hours. It is reported that Song Shanmu’s lawyer filed an application in court for a polygraph test for his client. He also claimed that new evidence has emerged. However, the prosecutor in this case said in an interview with the media that available evidence was already sufficient to prove that Song Shanmu was guilty of actions against the will of the victim. The original verdict should be maintained

In December 2010, Song Shanmu was convicted of rape and sentenced to 4 years in prison. The reputation of the Shanmu Group was destroyed. Song Shanmu fell from being the boss of a well-known education centre to a rapist. He was an entrepreneur who meteoric rise in the business world but fell from grace due to indiscretion.

Some people in the training industry believe that regardless of whether Song Shanmu himself can redeem himself, his case is a cautionary tale for people in the business of education. Setting a good example is the most basic requirement for teachers.

One Man Show

Song Shanmu was initially a diligent and conscientious entrepreneur. When Song Shanmu first arrived in Shenzhen in August 1991, he was still a lecturer at a university in Shandong. An incident caused him great hardship and he decided to change his life. On the first day he arrived in Shenzhen, his wallet was stolen, and he had to sleep on the street that night. Early the next morning, with only a little loose change in his pocket, he went into a snack bar for breakfast. He noticed a computer in the store, but the boss used a handwritten menu. Song Shanmu was curious and asked why the boss didn’t use a computer to print out a menu. The boss explained someone gave him the used machine and he was still figuring out how to use it. Song offered to print out the menu for him for 200 yuan.

It was the 1990s and although many people could afford computers, they didn’t know how to use them. That incident made Song see an opportunity to start a business teaching people how to use computers. He returned to Shandong, quit his teaching job there and returned to Shenzhen.

In November 1991, Song Shanmu rented a classroom and began his life as an entrepreneur, totally unprepared. He had no business plan and didn’t even have a strategy for attracting students. He inserted flyers on “computer training” under the doors of apartments. Without any budget, he was a one-man-show. He did the publicity, registration, assembling computers, lesson planning and printing of materials.

Wacky Promotions & International Fame

His company’s name Sun Moon was inspired by the night he spent on the streets. Because it was the moon that kept him company at night and he waited anxiously for the sun, he decided to call his company Sun Moon Education. With a little money made, he invested in publicity, putting up advertisements at nearby cinemas. Very soon, regular patrons at the cinemas became familiar with Sun Moon Education (CCVIP).

To deliver greater impact, he put his face on the advertisements. He put up posters at railway stations and airports. His face, with his big beard, became instantly recognisable. From 2005, he tried another tactic. He would appear on Spring Gala events and when the camera panned over the audience, he stood out with his big beard, bow tie and suspenders. Netizens shared his pictures and videos. Many people recognised his face in the advertisements they saw in cinemas, railway stations and airports.

From a small classroom in Shenzhen with only 4 computers, Song Shanmu’s business grew into an empire with branches in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, London, Canada, Vancouver, New York. At Cambridge, he was even awarded a PhD.

The Big Beard Scandal

On 4 May 2010, a 22-year-old female employee from Sun Moon Education Group made a police report alleging that CEO Song Shanmu blackmailed her with her nude photos and raped her while she was having her period. The matter was first reported in the news on 12 May. The headlines read “Sun Moon Education Group CEO Wanted by Police Under Suspicion of Raping Subordinate.” When the news went viral, Song Shanmu was vilified by netizens. Soon, all news channels in China carried the report on sexual assault. On 13 May, Song Shanmu resigned as CEO and made a public apology.

Insiders revealed that Sun Moon employed young women about 20 years of age in non-executive positions. These young ladies were all from the countryside and had to be single and not dating. Under the terms of their contract with Sun Moon, these women were not allowed to have any boyfriends within the two years they were working in the company. At the same time, office romance was strictly prohibited.

According to media reports, 46-year-old Song Shanmu started his business at Shenzhen. In 20 years, he grew his business into a multi-national education centre. Often regarded by the public as a business miracle, the scandal came as a shock. Some observers felt that Sun Moon had grown too big and too fast. His success as some sort of a cult leader seemed to have turned him into a megalomaniac. Workers were made to bow and memorise his “teachings”, greet him every morning and report to him before leaving. The regimentation created a master-slave relationship between Song and his workers. Sun Moon became his empire and he behaved like an emperor. One might expect Song Shanmu to indulge in liquor and other vices, but like Hitler, he was incredibly disciplined himself. He didn’t drink, smoke nor indulged in extravagant cuisines.

Command & Control

Song Shanmu had a college to train girls from the countryside, transforming them from peasants into Sun Moon employees. His selection criteria were not very different from that of airlines. Upon graduation, these girls underwent a further selection process to become Sun Moon employees. As these girls did not have any residential papers in the city, Song provided accommodation for them in the form of a dormitory where they were monitored 24/7 through CCTV. Like models, the girls were trained in etiquette and deportment. Exercise equipment was provided and there was strict diet control to keep their weights around 45kg. All female employees had to approach him personally to have their leave approved. Those who did not follow his regimes were fined 200-300 yuan for each infringement. One employee who had worked there for 6 months revealed that she had already accumulated fines of 2,000 yuan. The draconian rules are aimed at instilling discipline and a sense of responsibility. Song claimed that these girls were like his daughters and he wanted to protect them in the city, but some insiders revealed that no less than 3 of these “daughters” eventually became his mistresses.

Female employees in branch campuses wore white shirts, ties and blue jackets. Song Shanmu was the one who designed the women’s uniforms including the handbags they were required to carry. They were required to wear high heels and black stockings. Their hairstyles and even the colour of their nails had to be approved by him. It was believed that Song Shanmu had been sexually harassing his female employees for the longest time without being caught – until he picked on Luo Yun 罗云 . We may never know what happened to the other women or who they were, but 罗云 appeared to have all the features that might bring him good fortune according to Chinese geomancy.

Humiliating Regulations

Luo Yun reported that she was fined 200 yuan on her first month at work simply because she didn’t pull her curtains in her dorm right. When passing a superior, she was required to place a hand on her abdomen and blow slightly. Even when she had worked overtime, she was not awarded any overtime pay unless it exceeded 1 hour. This is the background information on how Song Shanmu ran his business empire.

CCTV In Girls’ Dormitory

Song Shanmu’s Appeal

Song Shanmu’s Escape From Punishment