A spate of school killings in China has “deep-seated” roots in the country’s social tensions which need addressing, Premier Wen Jiabao said.
Wen made the comments to Hong Kong’s Phoenix television after a man in rural northwest China on Wednesday hacked to death seven young children and two adults after an argument over a kindergarten lease.
The attack was the sixth attack on schoolchildren by angry and apparently deranged men since March and prompted official vows to “strike hard” against the problem.
Wen told Phoenix late on Thursday that he “felt extremely distraught” at the children’s deaths and that the country had to look into the reasons.
“As well as adopting vigorous safety measures, we also have to pay attention to addressing some deep-seated causes behind these problems, including dealing with some social conflicts and resolving disputes,” Wen told the Hong Kong-based satellite television network that broadcasts into mainland China.
“We must strengthen the role of (dispute) mediation at the grassroots. That’s something we all have to work on,” he said in comments also reported on the Phoenix website (www.ifeng.com).
The premier’s remarks were the most direct yet from a senior leader on the deadly assaults that has stoked worry about the social malaise that some see underneath China’s rapid economic growth and anger among ordinary citizens, especially parents.
There have been several attacks on schools and universities in recent years. In the five previous school attacks since March, 18 people were murdered — all but three of them children — and more than 80 were injured.
China bans nearly all citizens from owning handguns, and the attackers used knives, cleavers and, in one case, a hammer.
Triggers for the attacks have included pent-up grievances over lost jobs, business failures, broken relationships, and a new home that officials had ordered torn down. (Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Benjamin Kang Lim)