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5 kindergartners, teacher injured in 3rd classroom attack in China in 3 days

Posted by Author on May 5, 2010

By Lauren Keane, Washington Post Staff Writer –

BEIJING — A farmer wielding a hammer injured five kindergartners and a teacher before setting himself on fire Friday, in the third classroom attack in China in three days and the fourth since late March.

State news media played down the latest assault, which occurred in Weifang, a city in the eastern province of Shandong, on the same day as the gala opening of Expo 2010 Shanghai China — an event the government is treating as an opportunity to burnish the country’s image.

The Xinhua News Agency reported that the students were in stable condition at a hospital and that the attacker, 45-year-old Wang Yonglai, had died at the scene. By evening, online links to articles about the incident were either redirected or returned error messages.

Despite the spotty news coverage, the government has gone on the alert in response to the string of attacks, which have left at least eight people dead and dozens injured. The Education Ministry issued an emergency notice Friday requiring outsiders to register before entering schools and ordered school officials to cooperate with local governments to tighten security, Xinhua reported.

All the attacks occurred in China’s eastern coastal provinces, prompting concerns about a copycat effect. On Thursday, a man wielding a knife forced his way past a security guard at a kindergarten in Taixing, in Jiangsu province, and slashed at least 28 children before being subdued. Two teachers and a security guard also were injured, according to Xinhua.

On Wednesday, a man stabbed 15 students and a teacher with a knife in an elementary school in Leizhou, in Guangdong province. The suspect was later identified as a former local teacher with a history of mental illness.

That attack coincided with the execution of the perpetrator of the first of the attacks, a 42-year-old surgeon who killed eight schoolchildren with a knife and injured five others in Nanping, in Fujian province, on March 23.

Public reaction to the attacks has been strong, highlighting concerns about rising violence in China and spurring debate about its underlying causes. Some observers have suggested that the violence reflects a society in transition that lacks an effective social safety net, outlets for people to express their grievances and adequate treatment programs for the mentally ill.

Xinhua reported that Wang, the attacker in the latest case, was distraught after local police told him that his house had been built illegally and would be razed.

Zhou Yingjie, a columnist for the China Economic Times, said in a blog posting that strengthening school security was only a stopgap measure and would not address the root cause of the attacks. He advocated an effort to remedy social inequities, quoting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao: “Social justice is much brighter than the sun.”

The Washington Post

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