Chinese man burns self to death in new school attack


  • World
  • Friday, 30 Apr 2010

TAIXING, China (Reuters) - A farmer burned himself to death after injuring five children with a hammer at a kindergarten, Chinese media reported on Friday, in a reminder of societal strains just as China is trying to show its best face to the world.

Two children were pulled away from the man after he poured gasoline and set himself on fire at a kindergarten in Weifang, in coastal Shandong province, Xinhua News Agency said. All five injured students were in stable condition, it added.

The third attack in three days at a Chinese school, and the fifth in recent weeks, comes as the Chinese government is tightening security before the public opening of the World Expo in Shanghai, China's glitzy financial hub, on May 1.

On Thursday, a 46-year-old owner of a copy store stabbed 29 children, two teachers and a security guard at a kindergarten in Taixing, Jiangsu Province, a few hours upriver from Shanghai.

Nearby shopkeepers overwhelmed him in the schoolyard by hitting him with a fire extinguisher, they told Reuters.

"When we went in all the children were frozen, they didn't react at all. Some were standing, others lying down or sitting on the floor," said clothing shop owner Shan Aijun.

"They didn't react at all. Their necks and heads were covered in wounds."

The Ministry of Education issued an urgent instruction on Friday afternoon, requiring schools and kindergartens all around the country to "prevent strangers from entering."

Some cities also took measures to strengthen safety in schools, local media reported. Police sent guards to schools in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province, while schools in a district of Beijing were equipped with restraining poles.

ANGRY COPYCATS

The number of school attacks has led to fear of copycat assaults. They have also prompted public calls for more measures to protect students in a country where many couples only have one child.

In Taixing, the crowd gathered in a busy street jammed with motorcycles muttered angrily about local corruption and the length of time it took the police to get to the school.

"What I want to ask is why it took the police so long to get to the scene form the moment they were alerted. We have already checked it out -- to walk to the police station from here only takes six minutes," said the irate father of a child who was not injured.

"I want to ask why the police aren't protecting people's safety."

The attacker's motivation was "to take revenge on society", Xinhua reported. He had been fired from a series of jobs, for fighting or false claims, and had recently been cheated by the co-owner of one of his shops, Xinhua said.

"He appeared very normal, not very fierce. Really quite normal. But he had the knife in his hand. He said 'Whoever comes near, I'll stab you to death'," said restaurant owner Hu Xudong.

On Wednesday, a former doctor was executed for killing eight school children in Fujian province in March.

(Additional reporting by Yu Le and Huang Yan; Writing by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Ken Wills and Sanjeev Miglani)

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