Police are investigating the parents of a 20-month-old girl in southern China after a video showing the toddler crying in a cage was circulated on social media.

Other images shared online appeared to show the girl with multiple bruises on her limbs, and one apparently showed a man putting his foot on her face as she lay on the floor.

Officers from Chaozhou’s Chaoan district in Guangdong said in a statement that the father told them he had set up the photos and video and sent them to his former wife to make her angry.

The couple divorced at the end of last year and the girl, their youngest daughter, lived with her father.

Police said the toddler had undergone a medical examination and no bruises or other injuries had been found.

Officers told Red Star News that police had taken the girl into their care on Thursday and her parents were under investigation, but would not give further details.

The images caused outrage on Chinese social media.

“I am speechless. This man is not entitled to be a parent,” one person wrote on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

Another said: “He must have a psychological illness. I suggest he is put in a cage for a few days so he knows how his daughter felt.”

China Women’s News, mouthpiece of the All-China Women’s Federation, also commented on the case on its official Weibo account.

“Children are not parents’ private property and families are not in a blind spot where the rules don’t apply,” it said. “Moral education and persuasion cannot deter people, only a higher price for breaking the law can protect children. If parents abuse children or use violence against them, they must be punished according to the law.”

The case came after a woman was caught on film earlier this month kicking her three-year-old daughter, a child fashion model, for not cooperating in having her photo taken. The woman apologised after she was accused of child abuse and exploitation and condemned by fashion brands.

China does not have a specific law on child abuse, though calls have been mounting to introduce such legislation. According to Chinese law, abuse of a family member can result in detention or a jail term of up to two years, but if the case involves serious injury or death they could be sentenced to up to seven years’ imprisonment.