China’s kindergarten horror spreads, third attack in 3 days | world | Hindustan Times
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China’s kindergarten horror spreads, third attack in 3 days

Three kindergarten attacks in three days in three Chinese cities, transformed schools into fortresses as speculation spread that the violence may be a bizarre form of grabbing attention to rage against society, reports Reshma Patil.

world Updated: May 01, 2010 11:20 IST
Reshma Patil

Three kindergarten attacks in three days in three Chinese cities, transformed schools into fortresses as speculation spread that the violence may be a bizarre form of grabbing attention to rage against society.

At 7.40 am on Friday, a farmer crashed his bike through the primary school gate in eastern China, beat five kindergarten children and a teacher with an iron hammer, poured gasoline, grabbed two children and set himself afire inside the classroom.

The farmer was named Wang, meaning king. Teachers rescued the two children but Wang Yonglai died on the spot.

The attacks, each in a separate state in China’s booming south and east, occurred consecutively after the Wednesday execution of a middle-aged doctor named Zheng Minsheng who stabbed eight students to death as they queued outside a primary school in southern China in March. State media reported that Zheng had told police he was disgruntled, citing reasons including the girlfriends who dumped him because he was poor.

In Beijing, official media reported that police had distributed 300 ‘forks’ or poles with sharp prongs to schools and kindergartens. Policemen trained teachers and school guards in using their new weapons.

Authorities feared that media reportage would inspire copycat violence and said the criminals were mentally ill. Bloggers, Chinese parents and teachers speculated that the violence is rooted in the frustration of people left behind in the modernising and fastest-growing economy.

“We discussed the attacks in the school office,’’ primary school teacher Wong Wei told the Hindustan Times in Beijing. “It could be because of inequality in society, the criminals are so poor and others so rich.’’ At Wong’s government school, staff sent security instructions to parents, began padlocking the gates at all hours and allowed no child to step out alone.

A parent told HT she had noticed a policeman posted outside her son’s school since the March stabbing. “I cannot believe it...as a mother I worry about the safety of pupils,’’ Liu Xia, a Beijing parent, told HT. China’s one-child policy makes parents especially protective. Liu added that she would henceforth not allow her son to commute alone to school. “He is my whole life, I have only one child,’’ she said.

Education officials set up an emergency school safety advisory group of experts from 22 universities. In eastern Nanjing, media reported policemen with batons and pepper spray began campus patrols. In central Changsha city, parents joined the patrols.

Mental illness is a social stigma in China and often left untreated. The Chinese media is widely quoting experts who say the attacks are a wake-up call to provide equitable social welfare and access to psychological care. A criminal psychologist told the Global Times that people are susceptible to stress when ‘societal development is too rapid’. In 2004, a series of five knife attacks had occurred in Chinese schools.