In 2010 there were a series of violent knife attacks against Chinese school children. In total 27 kids were killed and over 100 were injured. The government was forced to introduce strict security protocols at schools and tried to limit the sale of knives, including those for cooking (see WiC59).
The reasons for the attacks have never really been studied – or if they have, public discussion of them has been limited.
The official line is always that the attackers are suffering from personal difficulties or mental disorders and that they chose to ‘take their anger out on society’. (A not dissimilar line to that taken by some US politicians when lone gunmen mow down innocents in America.)
Online discussions have offered alternate theories blaming rapid social and economic change for unbalancing people’s lives. Chinese citizens were being deracinated by mass migration, land appropriation and a shifting economy. The gap between rich and poor was growing and there was little help for those with mental health issues.
Just as with school shootings in the US, there was a copycat element to some of the stabbings, leading the censors to play down coverage of the attacks.
Yet the stabbings never really went away and this year looks to be the worst since 2010 for new cases.
The most recent incident took place on October 26 in Chongqing, when a 39 year-old woman, whose surname was given as Liu, slashed at a group of kindergarten children as they returned from their early morning exercises.
Fourteen children were injured, mainly sustaining cuts to their faces and upper bodies.
Videos showing the bloody aftermath – most now deleted from the web – feature crying slashed children and medics delivering first aid. Other clips show parents beating and kicking Liu as police try to arrest her.
The attack is already the third of its kind against school children this year. In August two primary school-aged boys were killed in Shanghai when a 29 year-old man wielding a knife attacked them.
And in April a 38 year-old man from Mizhi county in Shaanxi province stabbed students at his former middle school, killing nine and injuring 10 others. The assailant, later told the police he had attacked the children because he had been bullied at school.
In September, a middle-aged man driving an SUV ploughed his car into evening crowds on a public square in Hengdong in Hunan province before exiting the vehicle with a knife and slashing those nearby. In total 11 people were killed and 46 were injured. The police said the man had a criminal record for drug-related offences and wanted to take his “revenge” on society.
People who carry out such attacks are usually executed. Yet their motivation is rarely explored.
Normally the attackers are male and middle aged – the recent knifings in Chongqing were rare because they were carried out by a woman.
But beyond that little is known about why the assailants target children. Some have posited that attacks against minors generate more shock and therefore more attention. Others have suggested they cause public outrage over safety, which ultimately puts more pressure on the government.
Then there are a host of psychological explanations which may hold true for one attacker but not others.
One thing is certain, however. The number of fatalities in these incidents is low compared to attacks on schools in the US, because of China’s strict gun laws.
It is a factor that has not escaped the notice of those calling for stricter gun control in the US.
“If she had a gun fourteen children would be dead not injured,” said one person of the Chongqing tragedy, identifying herself as an American mother on Twitter.
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