Connect to share and comment

China soul searching after kindergarten massacres

Search is underway for deeper meaning in a string of mass murders in Chinese schools.

Children wait behind fence for their parents after school at a kindergarten in Tangying County, Henan province May 13, 2010. A spate of school killings in China has "deep-seated" roots in the country's social tensions which need addressing, Premier Wen Jiabao said. The Chinese characters read, "maintain school security and create a harmonious environment". (Reuters)

BEIJING, China — Not so long ago, it was popular in China to point at school shootings in the United States as evidence of major problems in American society.

These days, after spate of horrifying mass murders at primary schools across this country, China is doing some soul-searching of its own into what leads to random school killings.

Voicing an ever-common sentiment in China, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the recent outbreak of deadly school violence is indicative of underlying social problems.

“Apart from taking immediate action to increase security at schools across the country, we need to pay attention to the deeper motives that lead directly to these problems,” Wen reportedly told Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV in a Friday interview.

“That includes handling a number of points of social tension, resolving disputes and strengthening conciliatory measures at the roots of our society,” Wen said.

After five mass attacks on schoolchildren in different parts of the country since March, Wen has finally voiced what many Chinese have been talking about in private and public: The mass killings might be more about societal problems than random madmen.

More aggressive Chinese media has been making this point for a couple of weeks, but it was not until the murders of six children and two adults by a cleaver-wielding man at a kindergarten in Shaanxi province earlier this week that a top government leader addressed what might be at the root of the rage killings.

The murders have shared a few common factors: all involved middle-aged men reportedly angry about their own personal circumstances. In each case, the schools were simply staging grounds; the children victims unrelated to the cause or the murderer.

At first, government-run media was quick to write off the killings as committed by mentally ill men, with no greater meaning. It’s now clear that something else is going on.