By Shu Zhang and John Ruwitch
BEIJING (Reuters) - A motivational trainer in China, upset at the low scores in a session with rural bank employees, handed out beatings for eight of them, shaved the heads of the men and cut the hair of the women.
"Spanking was a training model I have been exploring for many years," the trainer, Jiang Yang, said on his microblog, absolving the bank's leadership of direct responsibility.
Changzhi Zhangze Rural Commercial Bank, a lender in China's northern Shanxi province, hired a Shanghai-based training company to run a "performance breakthrough" course, a local rural banking oversight body said on a government-run website.
After a day of training last weekend for a staff of more than 200, Jiang demanded explanations from the eight employees with the weakest scores.
One responded, "I'm not hard on myself." Another shouted, "I didn't make a breakthrough!" while a third blamed lack of teamwork.
Then he asked them to prepare to be beaten, and strode up and down the row of offenders several times, whacking them loudly on their behinds with a stick.
Later, he cut the women's hair and shaved the men's heads, according to media reports and www.czlook.com, the website of the Changzhi city government news office.
The punishment, captured in a mobile telephone video circulated on Chinese social media, touched off criticism.
"Since when does beating employees become a way of raising performance?" asked one Weibo user, Denny Tangmashi.
The training company declined requests by Reuters for comment, while telephone calls to the bank went unanswered and Jiang's mobile phone appeared to have been switched off.
In an online statement on Monday, the oversight body described the training as "improper", adding that it had suspended the bank's chairman and a deputy governor and told Jiang to make a public apology.
Some saw the punishment for the bankers and the trainer as inadequate, however.
"They need to be beaten with a stick!" wrote Weibo user Edison Li Jingyu.
(Reporting by Shu Zhang in BEIJING and John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)