Friday, April 30, 2010

Headline of the Year?

Man Hits 5 Chinese Kids With Hammer, Burns Himself to Death

BEIJING — A farmer attacked kindergarten students with a hammer, injuring five, before burning himself to death Friday in China's third such assault in as many days and prompting the government to demand stricter school security nationwide.

Wang Yonglai used a motorcycle to break down the gate of the Shangzhuang Primary School in the eastern city of Weifang and struck a teacher who tried to block him before hitting students with the hammer, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Wang then grabbed two children before pouring gasoline over his body and setting fire to himself. Teachers were able to pull the children away to safety, but Wang died. None of the five injured students had life-threatening injuries, Xinhua said.

The attack was confirmed by an employee at the Weifang Public Security information office. But the motive for Wang's rampage was unclear. Xinhua described him only as a local farmer.

The hammer attack follows a rampage Thursday by a 47-year-old unemployed man armed with an eight-inch (20-centimeter) knife at a kindergarten. Some 29 students, aged 4 or 5 years old, were wounded, five of them seriously at the school in Taixing city in neighboring Jiangsu province.

And on Wednesday, a 33-year-old former teacher broke into a primary school in the city of Leizhou in southern Guangdong province and wounded 15 students and a teacher with a knife. The attacker had been on sick leave from another school since 2006 for mental health problems.

In all, there have been five such attacks on schools in just over a month and many more in preceding months and years – although gun crime and other extreme violence in China is comparatively rare. Sociologists suspect the recent school rampages – usually by lone, male attackers – could be copycat actions.

According to news reports, the latest attacks have prompted schools in various parts of the country to take action. In a district of southern Nanjing City, guards will be armed from Saturday with police batons and pepper spray. In Beijing's Xicheng district, guards at kindergarten, elementary and middle schools have been given long-handled metal restraint poles with a hook on the end. In eastern Jinan city, police posts are being built on elementary and middle schools' campuses.

In an editorial Friday, the English-language China Daily said that security should be tightened, but stressed the need to prevent attacks in the first place.

"It can be easy to put killers on trial and execute them but it is far more difficult to find out the deep-seated causes behind such horrifying acts. Our efforts should be focused on preventing these from happening," it said. "We should find out what propelled them to such extremes. What problems do they have? Could anyone have helped, especially the authorities?"

Accounts in China's state media have largely glossed over what motivates attackers, but experts say outbursts against the defenseless are frequently due to social pressures. An egalitarian society only a generation ago, China's headlong rush to prosperity has sharpened differences between the rich and poor, while the public health system has atrophied.

China likely has about 173 million adults with mental health disorders, and 158 million of them have never had professional help, according to a mental health survey in four provinces jointly done by Chinese and U.S. doctors that was published in the medical journal The Lancet in June.

(courtesy Huffington Post)

I know guns are expensive and difficult to acquire (outside the U.S.), but it can't be that hard to locate a sharp object for a little throat-slitting when circumstances call for it. Burning himself alive? Such pageantry!

I wonder if it will be enough for him to win this year's Craziest Local Farmer trophy, although there seems to be an impressive amount of competition out there lately...

Last year's top three entrants eagerly awaiting the final vote-tally


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