HONG KONG—China's central government has ordered a nationwide security clampdown around schools following an attack on children in a Shaanxi kindergarten which left nine people dead, the fifth of its kind in less than two months.
Nine people, seven of them small children aged four and five, were confirmed dead at the Hanzhong Municipal 3201 Hospital after a local man went on a rampage with a kitchen cleaver before committing suicide.
"At this time there are still 11 children in the hospital with [cleaver] injuries to the head," an emergency room worker surnamed Zhang said.
"Their condition is very serious and they are still in intensive care, and their lives are still in danger."
"We were unable to save seven children and one adult on their arrival at the hospital. The adult was the owner of the kindergarten. Also, there was a teacher who died at the scene. In total, nine people died," she said.
A number of recent stabbing attacks on schools around China have prompted an increase in security at places where children gather. Graphic: RFA. Click <a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/multimedia/attackschildren-05142010105510.html"><font color="#0000ee">here</font></a> to go to full interactive feature.<br>
Officials at the Shengshui township government said local leaders are carrying out an investigation.
"All the leaders here rushed over to the village and to the hospital where the injured were taken," a duty officer said.
"I am just the duty officer, and I don't really know the actual details."
Residents of Linchang village, where the attack took place, were reeling after the horrific attack, which left children as young as three years old with deep cleaver wounds to the head.
"A lot of police from the public security bureau have come to the scene," a local resident surnamed Guo said.
"After they sealed off the area, a lot of parents rushed to the scene. There were a lot of ambulances, too, and they took the injured children to the Hanzhong Hospital for emergency treatment."
One mother of an injured child told Hong Kong media: "They told
me that my child's injuries were a bit lighter than some of the other
kids' because he resisted. But they said that his condition could
change quickly," she said.
"Right now, no one knows exactly
what the situation is. They are all talking about a fear of bacterial
infection. We haven't been allowed to see our children. So we are
waiting here of course, until we know our children are out of danger,"
she told TVB News.'Just another villager'
"I knew [the attacker]. He was just one of the villagers ... We don't know why he did this. Of course we are all horrified," Guo said.
Another resident, surnamed Xu, said: "It was a kindergarten class of four- and five-year-olds—20 or more kids."
"At the time, we had already got to work. We didn't see it happen, but afterwards we saw four or five ambulances apparently taking people to the 3201 Hospital."
The attacker, 48-year-old Wu Huanming, entered the privately run kindergarten in Shengshui township in the northern province of Shaanxi at 8 a.m. Wednesday, official media reported.
"Wu Huanming hacked to death seven children and the kindergarten owner, 50-year-old Wu Hongying," the Shaanxi Provincial Emergency Response Office said in a statement.
It said Wu Huanming returned home after the killings and committed suicide.
Wu Hongying's mother, 80-year-old Su Runhua, who was injured in the attack, later died in hospital.
The dead children were five boys and two girls. Eleven other children were injured—two severely who were still in unstable condition late Wednesday, media reports said.
The attack was apparently sparked by a property dispute: Wu Huanming was the landlord of the kindergarten.
China's ministries of public security and education held an emergency nationwide teleconference to tell local departments to upgrade security following the attack, calling on police to carry out security sweeps in schools and other public facilities where children gather, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Focus on mental health
Hu Xingdou, a sociology professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said the recent spate of kindergarten massacres reflected deep-running problems in Chinese society.
"I think the first thing is that Chinese society is becoming more and more unfair, and social conflicts are becoming more and more intense. The second thing is that it shows us that some people are becoming psychologically unbalanced. We lack proper organizations to care for people's mental health in our country," Hu said.
"For a long time we have placed great importance on the accumulation of material wealth at the expense of psychological health."
Hu said that the "ideology of class struggle and violent revolution" that had been inculcated into Chinese people had distorted their souls.
He welcomed plans for improved security in schools, but he added, "The crucial thing is the root cause of these events, the use of violence to exact revenge on society ... But we must also consider how to hand back the right of existence to disadvantaged social groups, to guarantee their right to be heard, their right to redress for grievances, in order to drive social progress," he said.
"Especially in the direction of rule of law. China is regressing now away from the rule of law, with the result that society is tending more and more towards irrationality and chaos."Original reporting in Cantonese by Fung Yat-yiu and in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.