Knife-wielding man attacks 28 children at Chinese kindergarten

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The Independent Online

The screams of the four-year-olds inside the kindergarten could be heard out in the street. When people ran in to investigate, they found what one witness said was a scene "too horrible to imagine" – blood everywhere as a knife-wielding man slashed 28 children, two teachers and a security guard yesterday on the second such school attack in China in two days.

Experts called it a copycat rampage triggered by similar incidents on Wednesday and last month. They said the wave of school attacks falls amid poor care for the mentally unstable and growing feelings of social injustice in the fast-changing country.

Yesterday's attack at the Zhongxin Kindergarten left five students hospitalised in a critical condition in the eastern city of Taixing, said Zhu Guiming, an official with the municipal propaganda department. Two teachers and a security guard were also hurt.

The official Xinhua News Agency identified the attacker as Xu Yuyuan, a 47-year-old unemployed man, using a 20cm knife. No motive was given.

A witness to the early morning attack said people heard screams coming from the three-storey building and rushed inside.

"It was too horrible to imagine. I saw blood everywhere, and kids bleeding from their heads," the visibly shaken man, Hu Tao, said. "Some of them could not open their eyes because of the blood."

Hu Tao, who owns a small restaurant across the street from the school, said a delivery man used a fire extinguisher to knock the attacker down.

Set in a side street off the main avenue of the heavily industrialised city, the kindergarten has a whimsical European-style castle turret rising above its gate and a cartoon-like bunny by the entrance, which was sealed off by police tape yesterday.

Most of the recent school attacks have been blamed on people with personal grudges or suffering from mental illness, leading to calls for improved security around the country.

Reports in China's state-owned media have glossed over motives and largely shied away from why schools have so often been targets. Yet experts say outbursts against the defenceless are frequently because of social pressures.

An avowedly egalitarian society only a generation ago, China's headlong rush to prosperity has sharpened differences between the haves and have-nots, and the public health system has atrophied even as pressures grew. "We must create a more healthy and just society," said Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociology professor at Renmin University in Beijing.

On Wednesday, a man in the southern city of Leizhou broke into a primary school and wounded 15 students and a teacher in a knife attack. That attack came the same day a man was executed for stabbing eight children to death outside their elementary school last month in the south-eastern city of Nanping.

The attack in March shocked China because eight children died and the assailant had no known history of mental illness. At his trial, Zheng Minsheng, 42, said he had killed because he had been upset after being jilted by a woman and treated badly by her wealthy family. He was executed on Wednesday, just a little over a month after his crime.

China has about 173 million adults with mental health disorders, and 158 million of them have never had professional help, according to a mental health survey in four provinces, carried out jointly by Chinese and American doctors that was published in the medical journal The Lancet in June.