Man stabs 29 children in China
Five in another school hurt in separate attack
TAIXING, China — In separate attacks on students in eastern China, a knife-wielding man slashed 29 children, two teachers, and a security guard yesterday and a man hurt five children and killed himself today.
Specialists said the wave of school attacks is occurring amid poor care for the mentally unstable and growing feelings of social injustice in the fast-changing country.
All the students injured in yesterday’s attack were 4 or 5 years old. The attack at Zhongxin Kindergarten left five students badly injured, two of them in critical condition, in the eastern city of Taixing, said Zhu Guiming, an official with the municipal propaganda department.
The official Xinhua News Agency identified the accused as Xu Yuyuan, a 47-year-old unemployed man. He pushed his way into the class with an 8-inch knife after teachers and a guard failed to stop him, the news agency reported.
No motive was given. Xu, the suspect in yesterday’s attack, had been a salesman in a local insurance company until he was fired in 2001. He has been jobless since then, Xinhua said.
A witness attack said people outside heard screams coming from the three-story building and rushed inside.
“It was too horrible to imagine. I saw blood everywhere, and kids bleeding from their heads,’’ a visibly shaken Hu Tao said hours later.
Today, Xinhua reported that a man killed himself after attacking five children at another kindergarten in eastern China. The unidentified man poured gasoline over his body and set himself on fire while holding two children. Xinhua said teachers pulled the children away, and none of the children’s injuries were life-threatening in the attack in Jinan city in Shandong Province. It was the third such attack in as many days.
Most of the recent school invasions have been blamed on people with personal grudges or suffering from mental illness, leading to calls for improved security.
Accounts in China’s state-owned media have glossed over motives and largely shied away from why schools have so often been targets. Yet specialists say outbursts against the defenseless are frequently due to social pressures.
An avowedly egalitarian society only a generation ago, China’s headlong rush to prosperity has sharpened differences between haves and have-nots, and the public health system has atrophied even as pressures grew.
China probably has about 173 million adults with mental health disorders, and 158 million of them have never had professional help, according to a mental health survey in four provinces jointly done by Chinese and US doctors that was published in the medical journal The Lancet in June.
“We must create a more healthy and just society,’’ said Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociology professor at Renmin University in Beijing.
While it’s not known whether the attackers knew about previous school stabbings, Zhou said, such sensational, violent acts often draw copycats.
“Normally, with these kind of violent events we hope the media won’t blow them up too much, because that tends to make it spread,’’ Zhou said.
On Wednesday, a man in the southern city of Leizhou broke into a primary school and wounded 15 students and a teacher in a knife attack. The suspect, Chen Kangbing, 33, was a former teacher who had been on sick leave since 2006 for mental health problems. He managed to slip into the school with a group of visiting teachers, Xinhua reported.
That attack occurred the same day a man was executed for stabbing eight children to death outside their elementary school last month in the southeastern city of Nanping.
At his trial, Zheng Minsheng, 42, said he killed because he was jilted by a woman and treated badly by her wealthy family.
A fourth attack earlier this month occurred when a mentally ill man hacked to death a second-grader and an elderly woman with a meat cleaver near a school in southern Guangxi and wounded five other people, including students.
After a 2004 attack at a school in Beijing that left nine students dead, the central government ordered tighter school security nationwide. Regulations that took effect in 2006 require schools to register or inspect visitors and to keep out people who have no reason to come inside.