Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Wednesday, 12 May 2010 14:18 UK

China children 'hacked to death' in new school attack

Parents of injured children wait at a hospital in Hanzhong City, Shaanxi, China (12 May 2010)
Parents of injured children waited for news in Hanzhong city hospital

Seven children and two adults have been hacked to death at a kindergarten in China, the latest in a series of school attacks, state media report.

Another 11 children were injured in the attack near Hanzhong city, Shaanxi province, Xinhua news agency reported.

The children were all thought to be under the age of six. Their attacker later killed himself.

There have been five violent school attacks in the past two months in China, leaving dozens dead or injured.

In March, a man stabbed to death eight pupils at a school in Fujian province. He was executed soon afterwards.

In the space of a week in late April, three more attacks in different parts of China left dozens of children injured.

The BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing says media reports of the latest incident have been minimal, perhaps in an attempt to discourage the copycat attacks that many parents now fear.

Hanzhong city officials said the man entered the privately-run Shengshui Temple kindergarten at about 0800 local time (0100 BST) as the school day was beginning.

Xinhua named him as Wu Huanming, a 48-year-old local man, and said he was armed with a meat cleaver, commonly used in Chinese homes.

Five boys and two girls were reported to have died, along with the kindergarten owner, Wu Hongying, and her mother, 80-year-old Su Runhua.

A further 11 children and a teacher were injured in the attack and taken to hospital - two were in a serious condition.

Hanzhong city

Liu Xiaoming, a public official, said the attacker had killed himself shortly after returning to his home.

Xinhua reports that an initial police investigation suggested that Wu Huanming and Wu Hongying had fought over a property dispute.

Wu Hongying had rented rooms for the kindergarten from Wu Huanming, without government approval.

In April, Wu Huanming had requested the house be vacated when the lease ran out, but Wu Hongying said she would wait until the vacation in June or July, according to Xinhua.

One local man told Reuters only two of the children in the kindergarten had escaped injury.

"I don't know how many died in the end. There was blood everywhere," said Zheng Xiulan.

Pitchfork defence

Last month, the education ministry ordered all schools to upgrade their security facilities, teach students about safety and ensure that young children were escorted home.

12 May: Seven children killed and 20 hurt in Hanzhong, Shaanxi province
30 April: Five children hurt in hammer attack in Weifang, Shandong
29 April: Three adults and 28 children injured in Taixing, Jiangsu
28 April: At least 15 children and one teacher injured in Leizhou, Guangdong
24 March: Eight children killed in Nanping, Fujian

Some local police authorities have distributed steel pitchforks and pepper spray to security guards in schools but such measures are considered expensive and their effectiveness is unproven.

China has in the past had a comparatively low rate of violent crime, meaning the recent violence has been all the more shocking.

Our correspondent says there has been much speculation on the cause of the attacks, with some blaming inadequate provision for people with mental health issues.

Others have suggested that the attacks are a form of revenge on society by individuals with no outlet for their anger in a political environment heavily controlled by the ruling Communist Party.

Some Chinese commentators have alluded to the growing gap between rich and poor, and the rapid pace of economic development and social upheaval as possible factors leading to outbreaks of violence.

But reports in official media have generally played down any wider causes for the school attacks, portraying them as isolated incidents perpetrated by disturbed individuals.

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