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Chinese Parents Call for Action to Stop School Attacks

  • Peter Simpson

The latest attack on children happened at a kindergarten on Wednesday when a knife-wielding man in northwest China killed seven children and two adults.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported that 48-year old Wu Huanming carried out the attack early Wednesday as children were arriving at the private kindergarten in the city of Hanzhong in Shaanxi province. Xinhua says the assailant killed five boys, two girls, the kindergarten's manager and the manager's mother. It says another 11 children were wounded before attacker returned home and committed suicide.

Adult assailants have killed eight children and injured at least 58 in recent weeks. Last Friday, as Shanghai kicked off its World's Fair, a farmer in Shandong province hit and injured five pre-school children with a hammer, and then burned himself to death. In the single worst attack, a former doctor stabbed eight children to death March 23 in southern Fujian province. He was executed April 28.

After this wave of violent attacks on kindergartens and elementary schools, government authorities have rushed to reassure anxious parents by providing extra security devices and personnel.

And, school security has been stepped up nationwide. In large cities especially, police have been assigned to patrol schools at opening and closing times, and cameras have been installed in some locations.

But parents remain worried and are demanding more security.

One wary parent in Beijing, Ms. Sun, expressed the feeling of many across the nation as she walked her child to school Thursday.

"China is suffering from deep social conflict and the gap between rich and poor is too wide," she says. "Many people have developed what she describes as anti-social personalities. "

She says school security must be tightened until inequality is better addressed - and she says until the government acts she and other parents cannot be certain their children are safe at school.

Villager Su Quanling witnessed the attack.

" Wu was renting out the property and wanted it back but the contract had not expired," Su says. "The dispute was on-going and there had been many arguments. "

She says she does not think Wu had what she described as psychological problems.

Some Chinese sociologists say the violence is the result of poor care for mentally ill people.

But, some are also blaming the government for failing to address rising social inequality which they believe caused the attackers to engage in so-called "social revenge" to vent their pent up grievances over job losses, land disputes, business failures and a break down in close relationships - all of which are exacerbated by corrupt government officials and lack of the rule of law.

The attacks have been eerily similar, all involving children under 10 and middle-age male assailants.

Without access to guns, which are strictly controlled in China, the attackers have tended to use knives and cleavers and to attack victims who are defenseless, experts said. Young children and their teachers are easy targets.
Government officials have ordered state media to report only basic details for fear of more copycat killings. 

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