, BEIJING, May 12 – Seven children and a teacher were hacked to death with a cleaver in an attack at a kindergarten in northern China on Wednesday — the latest in a series of violent school assaults.
The attack in Shaanxi province, which ended with the assailant\’s suicide, was the fifth on young school children in less than two months, and comes despite a push to boost security in and around schools across the country.
Local villager Wu Huanmin, 48, used a kitchen cleaver to carry out the killings in the city of Hanzhong, Xinhua news agency quoted the Shaanxi provincial emergency office as saying.
Xinhua said seven children and one teacher were killed in the attack that occurred at about 8:00 am (0000 GMT) as the school day was about to start. Another 11 children and one teacher were injured.
Wu returned home after the attack and committed suicide, it said, adding that a motive for the outburst was not immediately known.
"The murderer has killed himself," Xinhua quoted local official Wu Xiaoyan as saying.
A spate of similar attacks on young children has shocked the nation and prompted the government to beef up security at schools throughout China over fears of possible copycat assailants.
On April 30 in the eastern province of Shandong, a farmer attacked children with a hammer, injuring five, before fatally setting himself on fire.
The day before, a disgruntled jobless man injured 29 children and three adults with a knife used to slaughter pigs in an attack at a kindergarten in the eastern city of Taixing, in neighbouring Jiangsu province.
Earlier that same week, a 33-year-old teacher on sick leave due to mental problems injured 15 students and a teacher in a knife attack at a primary school in southern China\’s Guangdong province.
And in March, a former doctor enraged by a split with his girlfriend stabbed eight children to death and injured five others in Fujian province. He was executed last month.
Authorities across China have reportedly implemented measures to strengthen security at schools, increasing police patrols near school grounds, and boosting the monitoring of people known to be mentally ill.
Violent crime has increased in China as tight controls on society have been loosened in concert with the country\’s transition from a state-planned to a capitalist economy.
Studies also have cited a rise in mental disorders, some linked to stress as society becomes more fast-paced and old communist-era supports were scrapped.
A study last year estimated that 173 million adults in China have some type of mental disorder — 91 percent of whom had never received professional help.
Ma Ai, a criminal psychologist with the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said the country had failed to accurately gauge how sweeping economic change could affect the population\’s psychological wellbeing.
"The recent cases serve as a warning," Ma told AFP.
"Hopefully in the future, we can improve… so that every person\’s mental development can be healthy and (people) have the ability to face this environment and deal with it."