Man With Hammer Attacks Schoolchildren in Beijing, Injuring 20

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HONG KONG — A man attacked and injured 20 children with a hammer on Tuesday at an elementary school in Beijing, the local authorities said.

Three children at the Beijing No. 1 Affiliated Elementary School of Xuanwu Normal School in the district of Xicheng were seriously injured in the late-morning attack, the district government said on the social media site Sina Weibo. But none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening, it said.

A 49-year-old maintenance worker at the school was taken into custody by the police, the government said. The statement identified the man by his surname, Jia, and said he was from the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. It said he was believed to have attacked the children because the school would not renew his contract.

The man attacked the students between classes with a hammer that he used for repairs, the statement said.

A video circulating on a Chinese messaging platform, WeChat, showed what appeared to be the principal of the school addressing a room full of anxious parents. In the video, the principal said the suspect had attacked the children in six different classrooms.

Censors quickly removed several initial media reports and posts on Sina Weibo about the attack, allowing only brief official statements and ones carried by the central government’s news outlets.

Images posted online showed panicked parents pressed up against the school gates, pleading with officials for more information. In the video circulating on WeChat, an unidentified woman asked parents not to disseminate any information shared by school officials.

The authorities’ tight control over information after such attacks reflects a longstanding fear of drawing public criticism over how the government handles threats to public safety. This attack was particularly sensitive because the school is in the heart of the Chinese capital.

Mass shootings are a rare occurrence in China, where gun ownership is tightly regulated. In recent years, however, a pattern of violent attacks has emerged involving assailants using knives or other weapons, often targeting children in schools.

In April, a man with a knife killed nine children and injured 10 at a middle school in central China. In June, a man wielding a kitchen knife killed two students and injured two other people outside an elementary school in Shanghai.

In October, a woman with a knife injured 14 students at a kindergarten in southwestern China. Last month, eight people were killed and more than 20 injured when a man with a knife hijacked a bus and drove it into traffic in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian.

Experts have pointed to growing social anger over unemployment and rising inequality to explain such attacks. A lack of support for people with mental health issues and the copycat effect are also seen as possible factors.

Classes at the Beijing school appeared to have resumed after the attack, and by late afternoon, parents had gathered to pick up their children as usual. But there was a heightened security presence outside the gates of the school, with at least four police cars parked nearby.

“We are worried,” said Guo Yulan, as she waited by the gates for her grandchild, a fourth-grader at the school, to come out. “The school won’t say what’s happening.”

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