School attacks in China (2010–12)
A series of uncoordinated mass stabbings, hammer attacks, and cleaver attacks in the People's Republic of China began in March 2010. The spate of attacks left at least 25 dead and some 115 injured. As most cases had no known motive, analysts have blamed mental health problems caused by rapid social change for the rise in these kinds of mass murder and murder-suicide incidents.
As the Chenpeng school attack was followed by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in the United States hours later comparisons were drawn between the two. The difference in gun control laws between the two countries was used to explain the disparity in casualties of the school attacks by journalists and politicians, including U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler, and an article in the Associated Press noted that despite the different outcomes, an underlying commonality between the attacks was the increased frequency of school attacks because, "attackers often seek out the vulnerable, hoping to amplify their outrage before they themselves often commit suicide."
On March 23, 2010, Zheng Minsheng (郑民生) 41, murdered eight children with a knife in an elementary school in Nanping, Fujian province; The attack was widely reported in Chinese media (called 南平实验小学重大凶杀案), sparking fears of copycat crimes. Following a quick trial, Zheng Minsheng was executed about one month later on April 28. Media reported a history of mental health issues, but police stated that Zheng had no history of mental illness, contradicting earlier reports. Zheng said that he performed the attack after being turned down by a girl and suffering "unfair treatment" from the girl's wealthy family.
Just a few hours after the execution of Zheng Minsheng in neighboring Fujian Province, in Leizhou, Guangdong another knife-wielding man named Chen Kangbing, 33 (陈康炳) at Hongfu Primary School wounded 16 students and a teacher. Chen Kangbing had been a teacher at a different primary school in Leizhou, but was on sick leave due to mental illness He was sentenced to death by a court in Zhanjiang in June.
On April 29 in Taixing, Jiangsu, unemployed 47-year-old Xu Yuyuan went to Zhongxin Kindergarten and stabbed 28 students and two teachers after stabbing the security guard; most of the Taixing students were 4 years old. The attack was the second in China in just two days.
An attacker named Wu Huanming (吴环明), 48, killed seven children and two adults and injured 11 other persons with a cleaver at a kindergarten in Hanzhong, Shaanxi on May 12, 2010; early reports were removed from the internet in China, for fear that mass coverage of such violence could provoke copycat attacks. The attacker later committed suicide at his house; he was the landlord of the school, Shengshui Temple private kindergarten, and had been involved in an ongoing dispute with the school administrator about when the school would move out of the building.
On May 18, 2010 at Hainan Institute of Science and Technology (海南科技职业学院), a vocational college in Haikou, Hainan, more than 10 men charged into a dormitory wielding knives around 2:30 am; after attacking the security guard and disabling security cameras, 9 students were injured, 1 seriously. The local men attacked the dorm in an act of revenge and retaliation against college students following conflict the previous day at an off-campus food stall in which 4 students were injured, for a total of 13.
On 4 August 2010, 26-year-old Fang Jiantang (方建堂) slashed more than 20 children and staff with a 60 cm knife, killing 3 children and 1 teacher at a kindergarten in Zibo, Shandong province. Of the injured, 3 other children and 4 teachers were taken to the hospital. After being caught Fang confessed to the crime. There was no known motive. Since the start of the year, a total of 27 people had died and at least 80 were injured in various knife attacks.
Eight children, all aged four or five, were hurt in Minhang District, Shanghai when an employee at a child-care centre for migrant workers slashed the children who were 3 to 4 years old with a box-cutter. The woman had worked there for years, but was thought to have psychiatric problems.
In September 2011, a young girl and three adults taking their children to nursery school were killed in Gongyi, Henan by 30-year-old Wang Hongbin with an axe. Another child and an adult were seriously wounded but survived. The suspect is a local farmer who is suspected of being mentally ill.
On 14 December 2012, a 36-year-old villager in the village of Chenpeng, Henan Province, stabbed 23 children and an elderly woman at the village's primary school as children were arriving for classes. The attacker was restrained at the school, and later arrested. All of the victims survived and were treated at three hospitals, though some were reportedly seriously injured, with fingers or ears cut off, and had to be transferred to larger hospitals for specialized care.
Prof. Joshua Miller, chair of Social Welfare Policy at Smith College, attributed the attacks to stress caused by "rapid social change, mass migrations, increasing disparities in wealth and weakening of traditions." Some sociologists believe some of these attacks may be due to the PRC government's failure to diagnose and treat mental illness. The perpetrators may feel victimized by stress due to the rapid social changes in China during the last 10 years caused by the privatization and decreased social security of China's reform and opening period. During this time, more and more migrant workers from rural areas have moved to cities such as Shanghai to find jobs. However, because they do not have social security (because of the hukou system), many of them do not have health insurance. Because of the financial crisis of 2007–2010, some have lost their jobs, which is stigmatized in China, and have had to return to their native villages jobless and unemployed. The choice of schools for most of the attacks means they could be copycat crimes.
Another factor is China's male-based gender imbalance cause by the one child policy, in which there are a lot of single men frustrated at the dating market in China and their low prospects. They are then more likely to resort to violence.
Reaction and response
Since the recent spate of attacks, many parents are now worried about their children's safety in schools and have since asked local officials and school governors to step up security at the schools. The education ministry has formed an emergency panel to tackle the violence and some local police authorities have distributed such instruments as steel pitchforks and pepper spray to security guards in schools. However, not all schools increased their security because of lack of funds to hire extra security. The state media has also been keeping news of these attacks quiet by deleting forum entries on the internet and releasing few facts on the incident for fear of copycat crimes and mass panic. In May 2010 Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao commented on the school attacks and said that the 'social tensions' in China must be addressed. He also said society was changing rapidly and that subsequent changes in policy were needed. Why these attacks have been specifically targeted at young school children is not entirely explicable, however.
Following the Chenpeng school attack, the Chinese government began posting security guards in schools throughout the country. It is planned that all schools will have a security guard by 2013.
- List of countries by intentional homicide rate
- Social issues in the People's Republic of China
- Crime in China
- Mental health in China
- Hebei tractor rampage
- Yang Jia
- Yongzhou courthouse shooting
- Chenpeng Village Primary School stabbing
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