Kindergarten knife attack shines spotlight on China’s ‘lone wolf’ stabbings problem

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A knife attack at a kindergarten in China on Wednesday has shone a spotlight on the increasing number of such attacks that have led to 100 deaths in the past decade, according to one estimate.

While the US struggles with gun violence, China has borne witness to a rise in targeted crimes using blades and knives.

Around 100 children and adults have been killed and hundreds more injured over the past decade in apparently uncoordinated, “lone wolf” attacks, according to Reuters.

On Wednesday, three people were killed and another six injured in the attack at the kindergarten in China’s southeastern Jiangxi province.

According to police, a 48-year-old “gangster” wearing a cap and a mask stormed the private nursery school in Anfu county, officials posted on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo.

The incident is one in a spate of incidents that have involved schools as well as hospitals and other public spaces.

In 2010, two high-profile mass stabbings at schools – in which 15 children died in total – occurred in the span of three months, spurring Chinese government officials to step up security at schools.

At least eight elementary school students in Fujian province were killed in a knife attack in March that year, sparking fears at the time of “copycat crimes”.

Later that year in May, a 48-year-old man killed seven children and injured 11 others with a cleaver at a kindergarten in Shaanxi province.

Despite the government upgrading school security after these two incidents, such attacks have continued.

The Chinese government largely attributes such attacks on people bearing grudges against society with an aim to wreak revenge, or says the perpetrators suffer from unidentified mental illnesses.

Last month, four people were wounded when a knife-wielding man went on a stabbing spree at a hospital in Shanghai.

The accused was holding a group of people hostage when police officers “decisively fired a shot to injure and subdue him”.

In June, a 23-year-old man in the eastern Ningbo city was stabbed to death in the middle of the road during the day.

Two children were killed and 16 others wounded in a knife attack at a kindergarten in southern China last April.

And six people were killed and 14 others suffered injuries on June 2021 when a man stabbed passersby on a pedestrian shopping street in Anqing. A 25-year-old unemployed man was arrested, who according to the police, was seeking to “vent anger over family troubles and pessimism”.

In one of the worst incidents of a mass stabbing in recent years, nine students were killed at a school in Shaanxi province by a 28-year-old man wielding a knife in April 2018. The accused, identified as Zhao Zewei, was executed in September after being sentenced to death on multiple murder charges.

A man in the southern province of Hainan stabbed 10 children before killing himself in 2016. Another assailant killed three students at a school before jumping off a building in 2014.

The attackers, who were overwhelmingly male, were either killed, ended their lives or were put on trial and executed by the government.

China claims its intentional homicide rate dropped to just 0.5 per 100,000 population in 2018, down from 2 in 1999, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s International Homicide Statistics database.

But analysts say police and local officials face pressure to artificially suppress violent crime figures from their superiors.

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