Children killed in knife attack at Chinese middle school

Beijing: A man wielding a knife killed nine children and injured 10 others outside a middle school in central China on Friday, authorities said, in one of the worst attacks at a Chinese school in recent years.

The incident took place shortly after 6pm, officials said, as students were being dismissed at the Mizhi County No. 3 Middle School in Shaanxi province, about 800 km southwest of Beijing.

The police said they had taken into custody a suspect, a man with the name Zhao, born in 1990. They said that the man was a graduate of the middle school and that he had told police he was seeking revenge because he had been bullied during his time there.

"He attacked students because he hated the students there," said a statement by the Mizhi County police posted on Weibo, a popular microblogging site.

Videos and images posted online by witnesses showed bodies spread along alleyways. Residents rushed for assistance, carrying the injured. "Hurry up, hurry up, call for help!" a woman shouted in one video.

The police said the dead included seven girls and two boys.

In other videos, police walked down a street holding the neck of a man whose face was bloody. News reports identified him as the suspect.

The attack revived fears in China about school safety, a perennial concern among parents. Knives are a weapon of choice in China, where guns and other weapons are strictly regulated.

"I thought campuses were safe without guns," one user wrote on Weibo.

Another user said it was necessary to take steps to stop more attacks. "Revenge can't be forgiven but we need to find out how it began and prevent future cases."

In 2010, a spate of stabbings prompted the government to tighten security at schools, installing gates and cameras and training security guards to fend off attackers.

Experts have pointed to a lack of high-quality mental health care in China and anxieties caused by social upheaval and persistent inequality in explaining the attacks.

Joshua Miller, a professor at Smith College who has studied attacks at schools, said it was difficult to ascribe motive in the case, although it might include a grievance toward a school or toward society, mental illness or a loss of self-esteem.

"The social and cultural context shapes and gives meaning to the act — why this act in this place with these people," he said.

While violent crime is rare in China, attacks have persisted.

In 2016, a man wounded seven children and two passers-by outside a primary school, also in Shaanxi province.

Last year, a man was accused of setting off a bomb outside a kindergarten in eastern China, killing seven and injuring 65.

Assailants in school killings in China often receive severe punishments, including the death penalty.

New York Times

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