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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Chinese boy murdered at school
Chinese schoolboys
Security is becoming a growing problem in schools
By Duncan Hewitt in Shanghai

A six-year-old schoolboy has been murdered in the middle of a lesson at school China's state news agency has reported.

Liu Hui was allegedly killed by a neighbour of his family, at a school in a village in central Henan, the agency reported.

The tragedy comes soon after China vowed to step up security in schools following the deaths of around 40 children in an explosion at a primary school earlier this month.

The case highlights the fact that many schools, particularly in rural areas, do not consider security precautions necessary, or cannot afford them.

Hacked with an axe

The state news agency said the killer, believed to be a local villager, walked into the classroom and told the teacher, whom he knew, that her mother wanted to see her.

The teacher left, telling pupils to carry on with their work.

Eyewitnesses say the killer then dragged Liu Hui into the corridor and hacked him to death with an axe, before calmly walking away.

The report said the attacker had been identified as a neighbour of Liu Hui's parents.

He was believed to be angry with them because their newly built house overshadowed his own home.

Parents of pupils at Liu Hui's school were quoted as complaining that teachers there had always had a lax attitude and had refused to refund tuition fees to traumatised parents who wanted to move their children to other schools, threatening them with fines if they did so.

Security

The blast at a school this month prompted an urgent order for security precautions to be tightened in schools across the country.

The explosion was blamed by the authorities on a local man who they said had mental problems. Villagers claimed children at the school had been forced to make fireworks to earn money.

In another recent incident, a pupil at a rural high school was murdered by an older boy known to have violent tendencies.

The killer had been put in charge of some school activities in the hope that the responsibility would cure him of his anti-social behaviour.

In a society where violence against children has until recently been relatively rare, changing attitudes is unlikely to be easy - particularly as many schools simply do not have the money to pay for security precautions.

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See also:

16 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Primary school protest in southern China
07 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Fireworks blamed for China school deaths
14 Aug 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
China's educational elite
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