Chinese man sentenced to death for school stabbing

BEIJING Sat May 15, 2010 11:19am EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese man who stabbed 29 children and three teachers was sentenced to death after a half-day trial Saturday as the government sought to ease public dismay over a string of school attacks.

Xu Yuyuan, 47, an unemployed local man, was found guilty of attacking a kindergarten in Taixing city in eastern Jiangsu province last month, the Xinhua news agency reported.

A string of attacks at Chinese schools has killed a total of 27 people and injured more than 80 since March, prompting calls for better protection of students and worries about the social malaise that some see underneath China's rapid economic growth.

Nobody died in Xu's attack, but he was convicted of homicide, which in Chinese law also covers the intention to kill, said the Xinhua report.

The assaults on children have triggered public alarm, especially among parents and officials have vowed to "strike hard" against the problem, meaning swift trials and harsh punishment for anyone found culpable.

Xu told the court that his motive was to "vent his rage against society," said Xinhua, adding that "he was angry about a series of business and personal humiliations."

Premier Wen Jiabao said this week the outburst of violence had deep-seated roots in the fast-changing country's social tensions that need addressing.

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.

Psychiatric care in China, especially in the countryside, is scarce and the conditions in mental health wards are often primitive.

The country's Minister of Public Security, Meng Jianzhu, praised parents who organised security patrols at schools, and said mentally ill people should receive more attention, the Ministry's website (www.mps.gov.cn) reported Saturday.

"Enhance psychological counseling for people with paranoid characters and show more concern for the mentally ill," Meng said while visiting northern Shanxi province to inspect schools, according to the report.

(Reporting by Simon Rabinovitch and Chris Buckley; Editing by Paul Tait and Jon Boyle)

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