By KEN TEH
Associated Press Writer
TAIXING, China (AP) — A Chinese city shaken by one of three back-to-back attacks on schools stepped up security and urged its citizens to “trust the government” Saturday, a day after parents of the injured children protested outside a local hospital.
A dozen police and security guards patrolled the lobby of the Taixing city People’s Hospital the morning after marching parents chanted “We want the truth,” asked to see their children and demanded a better government response to the crisis. Photos and video posted online showed hundreds of people massed outside the hospital Friday night, pushing so hard to get in that they shattered a glass door.
The school attack in Taixing came Thursday when a 47-year-old unemployed man armed with an 8-inch (20-centimeter) knife wounded 29 students aged 4 or 5 — five of them seriously — plus two teachers and a security guard.
The city government tried to ease fears in a mobile phone text message sent to citizens Saturday.
“No one has died, and all of the parents have seen their injured children,” the government said.
“Citizens please trust the government, don’t believe rumors,” the text said.
A parent of one of the four children still in intensive care confirmed that he and other parents had been able to see their children Friday and Saturday. Xin Feng, the father of a 4-year-old boy, said parents had no plans for further protests.
Xin had said a government employee was handing out compensation to families Saturday, but later said he had been mistaken and that the money was from a private citizen.
“We don’t want the government money. We just want the children to be OK,” he said, adding that parents also want a reasonable explanation from the government of the attack.
“When I walked into the ICU this morning, my son recognized me but couldn’t talk,” Xin said. “He looked so helpless.”
The anger and fear come after three classroom assaults in three days across China. The government issued an urgent order Friday for schools to tighten security, and armed police will patrol schools in the capital, Beijing, when classes resume Tuesday after the May Day holiday.
The attack in Taixing came a day after a 33-year-old former teacher broke into a primary school in the southern city of Leizhou and wounded 15 students and a teacher with a knife. The attacker had been on sick leave from another school since 2006 for mental health problems.
And on Friday, a farmer used a motorcycle to break down the gate of a primary school in the eastern city of Weifang and struck five students with a hammer. He then poured gasoline over his body and burned to death, Xinhua said.
Chinese schools have had five such attacks in just over a month — unusual in a country where extreme violence is comparatively rare and strict controls keep most people from owning guns. Sociologists suspect the rampages — usually by lone, male attackers — could be copycat actions.
State media reports have largely shied away from why students have been targets. Experts say outbursts against defenseless children can be due to social pressures in a rapidly changing society.
The attacks have been particularly shocking because most urban families in China have only one child due to government population control policies.
“There are a few children whose medical condition is still very critical,” said Li Wenjiang, the director at the
Taixing city People’s Hospital. “There are two children with broken windpipes who suffered from lack of oxygen and lack of blood, so their condition is quite critical. Another also has puncture wounds in his chest.”
Nearby, two of the injured girls were seen in beds quietly clutching stuffed animals. Their heads had been stitched up.
The Ministry of Public Security on Saturday ordered police across the country to strengthen patrols in and around schools at the beginning and end of the school day and to inspect small hotels, Internet cafes and “recreational sites” next to schools, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Schools were urged to install surveillance cameras and security alarms.
The education vice minister, Hao Ping, said emergency management is a “heavy task” with 270 million students across China, according to a Xinhua report Saturday. Hao said the government was setting up a 22-member expert team to focus on “public incidents” in the education system.
The central government first ordered increased school security in 2004 following an attack that left nine students dead at a Beijing school. Since 2006, schools have been required to register or inspect all visitors.