China executes man who attacked 29 children

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The Independent Online

Chinese authorities today executed a man who attacked a kindergarten in eastern China last month, slashing 29 children and three teachers with a knife, a state news agency reported.

Xu Yuyuan was executed after being convicted in mid May of attempted homicide by the Taizhou Intermediate Court in the eastern province of Jiangsu, the official Xinhua News Agency said. No one died in the attack.

The April 29 attack was one of five major assaults against schoolchildren in the last two months that left 17 dead and more than 50 hurt.

The 47-year-old Xu, who was unemployed, told the court during his May 15 trial that he had lost money in gambling and business and was venting his anger against society, Xinhua said.

Xu used an eight-inch (20-centimeter) knife in the attack on the Zhongxin Kindergarten in Taixing city. Four of the victims were severely injured.

Telephones at the court rang unanswered today.

The string of attacks prompted Chinese authorities to tighten security at schools, with police and security guards posted at entrances and video surveillance and intruder alarms installed on some school premises. In the southwestern city of Chongqing, police were told they could shoot to kill to stop assaults on students.

The attacks have focused attention on the consequences of ignoring mental illness in modern China, as huge economic inequalities stoke social tensions.

The man convicted in the first of the five school attacks, Zheng Minsheng, killed eight children with a knife in the southern province of Fujian on March 23.

Zheng was executed one day before Xu attacked the school in Taixing — and on the same day that another man, Chen Bingkang, broke into a primary school in the southern province of Guangdong and stabbed 18 students and a teacher. Chen, a 33-year-old teacher, had been on sick leave because of mental illness.

Experts say China has failed to adequately address the mental health needs of its citizens. At least three of the recent attackers had histories of mental health problems. Two committed suicide after carrying out the attacks.

All the attackers have been men in their 30s or 40s. They all used knives or hammers — guns are tightly controlled in China and obtaining them is virtually impossible.