On the morning of March 23, a group of children gathered at the gate of Nanping Experimental Elementary School, waiting for the school to open. A man walked toward them and without a word started to butcher the children with a long knife. By the time the school security guard, a teacher, someone doing his morning exercises, and a car driver finally restrained the man, eight were dead and five seriously injured—all students aged 8 to 9.
The tragedy happened in Nanping City, Fujian Province. It shocked the nation. The state-run media reported the incident, and the issue was widely discussed on the Internet. Even though some people started to talk about the reasons behind the incident and what responsibility society should bear, nobody really understood that this was just the beginning.
Zheng Minsheng, the killer, a former surgeon at a local hospital, was quickly tried and sentenced to death on April 8, just two weeks after the killing. In big cases this is called “posting the most severe sentence as soon as possible.” In this way the authorities try to avoid criticism by showing the public that they did their job. They also seek to deter potential criminals. The only problem is that this time, the tactic didn’t work.
Four days after the trial, another tragedy happened. This time, it was in front of an elementary school in Guangxi Province, 800 miles away. One of two victims was an eight-year-old student.
In the authorities’ first response, finding the reasons for the killing of school children seemed less important than setting an example for others. Besides, deep analysis and discussion could lead to unpleasant results for the Party and the state. The execution of Zheng Minsheng was carried out on April 28, only 36 days after the killing. This was done very quickly, even by Chinese standards.
That very day and on the two days that followed, three more school killings happened. On April 28 in Guangdong Province, 18 elementary school students and a teacher were injured by a former teacher with a knife. On April 29 in Jiangsu Province, 29 children and 3 teachers were injured in a kindergarten, according to the state media. On April 30 in Shandong Province, five children were injured in an elementary school. This time, the killer used a hammer, instead of a knife. The most recent and the most deadly case was in Shaanxi Province. Seven children and two adults were killed in a kindergarten by a butcher’s cleaver on May 12.