China’s Premier Discusses School Attacks

Despite a ban in the domestic media on discussion of the recent attacks on children in China, Premier Wen Jiabao has acknowledged that larger societal forces may be a factor in the violence. From the New York Times:

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China said Thursday that the Chinese government would examine the deeper social problems that may have led to the recent string of deadly attacks on schoolchildren, making the first public comment by a Chinese leader on the violence since the latest attack, in which a landlord in a village hacked to death seven kindergartners, a teacher and the teacher’s elderly mother on Wednesday.

The comments were an implicit acknowledgment of the challenge that the series of five seemingly unrelated attacks, which began in late March, has posed to the Chinese government. The Chinese regard children as an especially treasured stratum of society, and very prominent dangers to children in the last two years — from tainted baby formula to school collapses — have led parents to call for greater government efforts to stamp out such hazards. Some ordinary Chinese say the recent attacks show an inability by the government to hold together the traditional social fabric in a time of great economic upheaval.

The Financial Times also reports that, “Child killings highlight China’s troubles“:

Thirty years of breakneck economic development without political reform have left millions of Chinese displaced, uprooted and confused. The killers’ profiles appear to mirror these social ills. Some were unemployed, others were involved in disputes over forced evictions and some had a history of mental illness.

“China’s society is entering a high-risk phase. The unfair distribution of wealth, official corruption, the failure to safeguard people’s basic needs, the inability to solve all these problems has created an inharmonious environment,” said Yue Guo’an, a professor of social psychology at Nankai University in Tianjin.

Even Wen Jiabao, China’s premier, acknowledged the deeper social implications of the attacks in the first top-level government reaction. “Apart from tight safety measures, we need to pay attention to addressing the root causes of these problems,” Mr Wen said in a televised interview on Thursday. “That includes dealing with social conflicts and dispute resolution at the grassroots level.”


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