A man wielding a kitchen cleaver killed a child and slashed 14 other children and three teachers at a kindergarten in one of Beijing's most attractive neighborhoods on Wednesday in the latest in a string of bloody knifing attacks that have stunned China this year, state media reported.
The attack occurred about 9:30 a.m. at a school run by the Beijing University No. 1 Hospital located in a quiet, tree-lined section of the Chinese capital that is home to Communist Party, military and government officials, the reports said. It was not clear whether the children or grandchildren of any senior Chinese leaders were at the school at the time of the attack.
The child who died suffered heavy blood loss from a neck wound, and another child and a teacher were in critical condition with slashed necks, according to the reports. The other injuries were described as not life-threatening.
Workers at a nearby restaurant heard the cries of the children, climbed over the locked school gate and subdued the assailant, witnesses said. Several children were lying in pools of blood when police arrived, according to state-run China Central Television. The television report quoted one of the officers as saying the gate appeared to have been locked from the inside.
The news reports identified the assailant as Xu Heping, 51, the school's entrance guard and the husband of its accountant. Police disclosed that Xu had spent five months in a Beijing mental hospital in 1999 after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Witnesses said they had seen wounded children, most about 5 or 6 years old, being rushed into the hospital in wheelchairs with bloody bandages wrapped around their heads and arms. Most were conscious and several were crying, they said.
"It's so cruel and shocking," said Fang Yimin, 31, a civil servant who had walked past the school carrying his baby boy several minutes before the violence began. He said he saw children playing happily with wooden blocks under the supervision of a young teacher but did not see the guard.
The attack was the latest in a series of knifing incidents that have prompted a national debate about social stability in a country that is experiencing a painful economic transition and wrestling with a widening divide between rich and poor.
In February, a poor college student in the southern province of Yunnan stabbed four roommates to death in a case that drew so much attention that propaganda authorities eventually barred discussion of it in state media. In May, another student, in southern Jiangxi province, stabbed seven strangers in an Internet cafe and a hospital, two of them fatally.