Clifford Coonan: Fear at the gates of my son's school

It has been an awful few weeks for parents. These attacks aren't co-ordinatedbut they have made us very nervous
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The Independent Online

It was open day at my son's school in Beijing, a gala replete with patriotic singing, dancing and kung fu, and (as a proud parent I can say this) a star turn by a seven-year-old Irish actor as a bewhiskered and eminently wise grandfather.

However, getting into this happy event was no easy task. "Dad, I have something very important to tell you. Please listen very carefully," my son said two days before the event as he explained the security arrangements for his big day.

The scene outside when I arrived will be one familiar to all parents delivering their children to a standard Chinese school. There were two security guards wearing ill-fitting grey uniforms and a massive, stainless steel, concertina-style fence that would certainly stop any gang of thugs using large trucks trying to attack our children, but would certainly not stop a lone attacker with a knife.

After years of slightly resenting these security men, I now know that I might need their help.

I handed over the piece of pink paper needed to get into the school to the security guard who has known me for a long time. He then frisked me, shamefacedly, and I passed through to the hall, where the children were performing their show.

This happened to me just a few hours before another school attack in China. Hammers, knives, and families destroyed; it has been an awful few weeks for parents in China. We had thought that with the extra security precautions ordered by the government that a grotesque period had come to an end. We were wrong.

Nobody sees these attacks as co-ordinated. But they have made anyone sending children to school very nervous. Outside the hall after the performance, a proud parent sparked up a cigarette with his lighter, and I think: Where did he get that from? How did he get that in?