China school attack triggered by home demolition threat: family

SHANGZHUANG, China Sat May 1, 2010 7:02am EDT

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SHANGZHUANG, China (Reuters) - A Chinese farmer who attacked kindergarten children with a hammer and then burned himself to death despaired about government plans to knock down his new home, his family said on Saturday.

The villager Wang Yonglai injured five children on Friday when he burst into a kindergarten in rural Shangzhuang Village in Weifang, an area in east China's Shandong province, where people were -- like many across China -- pondering what lay behind a recent burst of violent attacks on children.

Wang's wife and sister-in-law said he had acted out of rage over officials who had told him that his recently built house would be torn down because it was built on farmland, which is illegal in China.

Wang had spent his savings of 110,000 yuan ($16,115) on the new home for his son, and claimed he had permission from the government to build it, they said.

"The children are not grown up and the older generation are over 80. We need him," Wang's wife Wang Sulian said of her family, between bouts of wailing at the gate of the school were Wang incinerated himself after the attack.

"What can we do? How will we survive? I need the government to give me an answer," she told a crowd of locals gathered at the school, which housed the kindergarten.

The was the third attack of its kind in three days at Chinese schools, and the fifth in recent weeks.

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security issued an urgent directive on Saturday ordering police to step up security around schools and kindergartens and to seek to identify people who could pose a threat.

Some cities have taken measures to strengthen safety in schools, local media reported. Police sent guards to schools in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province, while schools in a district of Beijing were equipped with restraining equipment.

SOCIETAL STRAINS

On Friday, the Chinese government opened the World Expo in Shanghai, aiming to highlight the country's ascent to prosperity. But the rash of violence aimed at children has laid bare societal strains even in relatively rich parts of the countryside, such as Shandong.

On Thursday, a 46-year-old owner of a copy store stabbed 29 children, two teachers and a security guard at a kindergarten in Taixing, Jiangsu Province, a few hours upriver from Shanghai.

A day earlier, a former doctor was executed for killing eight school children in Fujian province in March. On that same day, a former teacher stabbed 16 students and a teacher at a primary school in southern Guangdong province.

In Weifang, the site of the latest attack, Wang Sulian showed Reuters a copy of a demolition notice, as well as documents that she said proved the family had obtained official permission to build on the land.

A local official, who gave his surname as Yu, denied that that the family had received permission to build the house and said five other families were also told to demolish their new houses, because they occupied farmland.

Wang's sister-in-law Wang Haiyun said he had been recently pressured by officials into signing an agreement to allow demolition.

"They forced him into it. There was nothing he could do. It made him mad," she said. "He would hit his wife and children. He kicked the door in. He couldn't carry on living."

(Writing by Chris Buckley; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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