Hammer-Wielding Man Attacks Chinese Kindergarten, Sets Himself on Fire

A man injured five kindergartners with an iron hammer before grabbing two of the children and setting himself on fire—the third attack on a Chinese school in as many days. What the hell is going on?

The attacker—a farmer named Wang Yonglai—was the only fatality, thanks to the teachers who were able to pull his two intended victims away from him before they were burned. But that's small comfort to the country, which has now seen three violent attacks on its schools in three successive days, and four this month.

On Thursday, 46-year-old Xu Yuyuan injured 29 children and three adults in Taixing city, assaulting them with a knife in what he said was "his revenge on society." The day before, Chen Kangbing, an art teacher suffering from "severe neurosis," attacked 16 students and one teacher, severely injuring five of the kids. And in late March, 42-year-old Zheng Minsheng stabbed eight primary schoolers to death.

The string of attacks "raises questions about school security," Xinhua says. Sure. But doesn't it raise other questions, too? Like: Why? Writing in The New York Times, Michael Wines points to a lack of mental health services as a possible contributing factor:

Mental illness remains a closeted topic in modern China, and neither medication nor modern psychiatric treatment is widely used. An analysis of mental health issues in four Chinese provinces, published in June in the British medical journal The Lancet, estimated that 91 percent of the 173 million Chinese adults that are believed to suffer mental problems never receive professional help.

Would airlifting shrinks into China prevent every single one of these horrible incidents from occurring? Of course not. But when some huge portion of the population isn't getting the mental care they need, it seems odd to focus on school security as the problem.

[Xinhua; NYT; pic, of a victim of Thursday's attack, via AP]