China is reeling from a string of attacks on school children. In the third school attack this week, a man with a hammer broke into a kindergarten in Shandong and injured five children on Friday morning.
The attacker grabbed two children and poured gasoline on himself but the teachers were able to pull away the kids before the man burned himself to death. State media identified the attacker as a farmer from a village in the outskirts of Weifang city, where the kindergarten is located, but the motive for his action was still under investigation.
It was the third horrific attack in three days at a Chinese school and the fifth in recent weeks, prompting school authorities to beef up security at campuses across the country as parents expressed fears for the safety of their children.
The Ministry of Education also announced the setting up of a special panel to handle such emergencies. Beijing police supplied school guards with long poles attached to fork-like prongs that can be used to neutralize attackers. Similar police "forks" were distributed in other places while school officials called for government financial support so that all schools can hire security guards.
A Chinese expert expressed fears of copycat assaults, urging local media not to sensationalize their coverage of the stabbing attacks. Professor Ma Ai, a criminal psychiatrist from the China University of Politics and Law, said the copycat element could explain the recent cluster of incidents. He pointed out that the killing of eight primary school students in a knife attack last month "set a very bad example for copycats."
Ma told ABC News in a phone interview, "Some people may have gotten the idea of stabbing school children from that particular incident, which received a lot of media coverage. But we can't blame the local media, they just reported what happened. But the media should protect the interests of the majority in our society."
The perpetrator of that March attack was Zheng Minsheng, a 42-year-old doctor who made this startling confession during his trial. "I have no hatred toward the students I stabbed. I chose them only because they were weak and vulnerable. I wanted to have a big influence among the public," Zheng said, according to the China Daily.
An investigation found that he had no history of mental illness but had been frustrated by "failures in his romantic life," the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing a local court statement.
After his conviction by the court, Zheng was executed last Wednesday, the same day a 33-year-old art teacher went on a stabbing spree in a primary school in Guangdong, wounding 16 students and a teacher. The police said the attacker's motive is still to be determined but he is now undergoing a psychiatric test.
Thursday, a man wielding an 8-inch knife attacked a kindergarten class of 4-year-old kids, wounding 29 students, two teachers and a school guard in Jiangsu. The man later told the police he carried the attack "in anger at a series of business and personal humiliations."
He described the attack as "his revenge on society," state media reported.