Media Quiet Over School Attack

Police are holding a man in connection with the deadly knife attack in the eastern province of Shandong.

2010.08.05
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StabMap.jpg China has suffered a string of deadly attacks on young children and staff in kindergartens in recent months—the latest an Aug. 3 incident in Zibo city.
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HONG KONG—China's state-run media limited itself to very brief reports issued by approved sources following a kindergarten stabbing attack Aug. 3 in the eastern province of Shandong which left at least three dead.
 
One man has been detained in Zibo city, and has told police that he carried out the attack, the sixth of its kind in recent months, officials said.
 
An emergency room doctor at Zibo city's No. 1 Hospital confirmed official media reports that three people had died in the attack.
 
The emergency room doctor also confirmed reports that the conditions of two teachers were described as serious.
 
"That's correct," he said. "They are still under intensive care."
 
An official who answered the phone at the Zibo municipal government said all high-ranking officials from the region were currently at the scene, and that investigations were continuing into the attack.
 
"They haven't sent back any news, so I don't really know about the incident," she said. "You should call the propaganda department and ask about it."
 
Calls to the mobile phones of propaganda officials went unanswered Wednesday, while calls to the Zibo police department returned a repeated busy signal.
 
Media reports
 
Media reports were limited to those issued by state news agency Xinhua, which said police had detained a man in connection with the killing of "at least three children" in a kindergarten knife attack, quoting a statement from the municipal government.
 
"Fang Jiantang, 26, self-employed, who was detained within hours of the attack, had admitted to police that he was responsible," Xinhua said.
 
It said three children died at the scene, while three other children and four teachers were wounded and taken to hospital.
 
According to the government, Fang told police he had used a 60-centimeter long knife, found at the scene, in the attack.
 
But the doctor declined to comment further. "You need to go to the propaganda department," he said. "There is a news center there."
 
"We aren't allowed to give interviews, because the patients' condition isn't stable, and too much stimulation isn't good for them," he said.
 
An expert drafted to help with the operation said the attack had taken place at around 4 p.m. local time.
 
Controls on information
 
Local residents posting online said the Shandong provincial governor had already arrived in the city to manage the operation, including tight controls on information about the attack.
 
An official who answered the phone at the Boshan district government offices declined to comment on the incident.
 
"I don't really know about this ... I am just filling in a shift temporarily," he said.
 
The name of the kindergarten used in official statements was apparently not the one it currently operates under, staff said.
 
A teacher at the Golden Phoenix branch of Boshan District Experimental Kindergarten confirmed that it was her school that was attacked Tuesday.
 
"We don't really know much about what is going on," she said. "And I don't have any comment to make."
 
A local resident surnamed Zhou said the kindergarten had been running summer classes to help out parents who still needed to work during the vacation period.
 
"The kindergarten should have closed some time ago for the summer holiday, and it was just taking care of a small group of kids," she said.
 
A teacher at a kindergarten in the same district said the school had hired more security guards in the wake of the attack. "There are security guards even inside the school," she said.
 
But she said classes would continue as usual. "We're all OK over here," she said.
 
String of attacks
 
China's central government ordered a nationwide security clampdown around schools in May, after a string of deadly attacks on young children and staff in kindergartens.
 
The order came after a man went on the rampage with kitchen cleaver at a Shaanxi kindergarten, leaving nine people dead, seven of them small children.
 
The Chinese public was still reeling after the horrific attack, which left children as young as three years old with deep cleaver wounds to the head, when the Zibo attack happened.
 
China's ministries of public security and education held an emergency nationwide teleconference calling on local officials to upgrade security following the attack, and ordering police to carry out security sweeps in schools.
 
Experts have blamed growing social tensions, a widening gap between rich and poor, and associated mental health problems for the spate of attacks.
 
Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao, and in Cantonese by Fung Yat-yiu. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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