By Gillian Wong
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Sunday executed a man convicted of slashing 29 children and three teachers with a knife in one of a series of recent assaults on schools and kindergartens, a state news agency reported.
Xu Yuyuan was found guilty of attempted homicide in mid-May by the Taizhou Intermediate Court in the eastern province of Jiangsu, the official Xinhua News Agency said. No one died in the April 29 attack.
It was one of five major assaults against schoolchildren in the last two months that killed 17 and hurt more than 50.
The 47-year-old Xu, who was unemployed, told the court during his May 15 trial that he had lost money in gambling and business and was venting his anger against society, Xinhua said.
Xu used an 8-inch (20-centimeter) knife in the attack on the Zhongxin Kindergarten in Taixing city. Four of the victims were severely injured.
Telephones at the court rang unanswered Sunday.
The string of attacks prompted Chinese authorities to tighten security at schools. Police and guards were posted at entrances and video surveillance and intruder alarms installed on some school premises. In the southwestern city of Chongqing, police were told they could shoot to kill to stop assaults on students.
The government has moved to assume control of a situation that has created worries about the safety of the country’s schools and the ability of China’s massive security apparatus to protect the vulnerable. In Taixing, hundreds of parents protested outside a hospital the day after the attack, demanding a better government response.
Xin Feng, a parent of one of the four children seriously hurt in the April attack, welcomed Xu’s conviction and execution. “That man deserved to die” Xin said Sunday in a phone interview, without elaborating.
Xin said his 4-year-old son was no longer in intensive care, although he was still recovering in the hospital.
The attacks also have focused attention on the consequences of ignoring mental illness in modern China, as huge economic inequalities stoke social tensions.
The man convicted in the first of the five school attacks, Zheng Minsheng, killed eight children with a knife in the southern province of Fujian on March 23.
Zheng was executed one day before Xu attacked the school in Taixing — and on the same day that another man, Chen Bingkang, broke into a primary school in the southern province of Guangdong and stabbed 18 students and a teacher. Chen, a 33-year-old teacher, had been on sick leave because of mental illness.
Experts say China has failed to adequately address the mental health needs of its citizens. At least three of the recent attackers had histories of mental health problems. Two committed suicide after carrying out the attacks.
All the attackers have been men in their 30s or 40s. They all used knives or hammers —guns are tightly controlled in China and obtaining them is virtually impossible. ♦
Associated Press researcher Henry Hou contributed to this report.