School rampage kills nine in China

Unimaginable carnage at a kindergarten in northwest China. A man with a cleaver attacked children, killing seven. It's the fifth savage assault on schools since March.
By Alexa Olesen
Thursday, May 13, 2010

HANZHONG, CHINA -- A man charged into a kindergarten in central China with a cleaver Wednesday and hacked to death seven children and two adults -- the fifth such rampage in a school in less than two months. The attacker then went home and killed himself.

The assault, which left 11 other children hospitalized, occurred despite heightened security nationwide, with gates and cameras installed at some schools and additional police and guards posted at entrances.

It was not clear if security had been increased at the school on the outskirts of Hanzhong, a relatively poor area in the heart of China. Images taken from local television and posted online showed the school, which had about 20 students, in a tumble-down, two-story farmhouse.

Sociologists say the recent attacks that have left 17 dead and scores wounded reflect the consequences of ignoring mental illness and rising stress resulting from huge social inequalities in China's fast-changing society.

"The perpetrators have contracted a 'social psychological infectious disease' that shows itself in a desire to take revenge on society," said Zhou Xiaozheng of Beijing's Renmin University. "They pick children as targets because they are the weakest and most vulnerable.

Wednesday's carnage started as class was beginning at 8:20 a.m. at the private Shengshui Temple Kindergarten, the local government said.

The assailant, identified as 48-year-old Wu Huanming, entered the kindergarten and killed school administrator Wu Hongying and a student on the spot, then began hacking at others, according to the city government's statement.

Six students and Wu Hongying's 80-year-old mother died later at a hospital, it said.

The recent attacks are classic "copycat crimes," the effects of which may be amplified by media coverage, Zhou said. Boosting security at schools would provide only a temporary solution unless the root problems of social injustice and economic inequality are addressed, he said.

It is also difficult to protect so many places.

About 500 kindergartens, primary schools and high schools in Beijing have hired more than 2,000 professional security guards to increase safety, said He Gang, a police officer at the Beijing Public Security Bureau. Thousands more guards are needed for the city's remaining 4,500 kindergartens, primary and high schools, He said.

Early reports on Wednesday's attack were removed from Chinese Web sites or moved to less prominent pages. There was no mention of it on state television's national evening news report -- which instead announced an urgent directive from the education and public security ministries to further protect schools.

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