Last weekend, a man wielding a knife in the Chinese city of Anqing killed six people and wounded at least 14. After apprehending the suspect, local police made a statement saying that the 25-year-old man was unemployed and seeking to ‘vent anger over family troubles and pessimism’.
This incident was one of at least a few such incidents of public stabbings in China in recent months. In April this year, a knife-wielding man killed two children and injured at least 14 others at a kindergarten in Southern China. Police then claimed the suspect to have a history of schizophrenia.
In December last year, at least seven people were killed by a knife attacker in the Chinese city of Kaiyuan in the Liaoning province. The attack apparently took place outside a school and was reportedly carried out by a 62-year-old man who had socially withdrawn after the death of his son and his divorce and carried out the attack to “express dissatisfaction with society”.
These are just some of the many mass stabbing incidents that China has reported in recent years. While such incidents rampant may not be rampant, they do happen often enough to raise concern in a society that has some of the highest levels of surveillance in the world.
As per World Bank estimates, China has shown comparatively reduced rates of violent crimes as compared to a country like America. In 2018, there were 0.5 recorded intentional homicides in China per 100,000 people. This was noted to be one-tenth that of America for the same time period.
Unlike China, America has a clear and well-known epidemic of violence that relates to its complicated relationship with guns. China has no such problems with firearms as guns in China are highly restricted for private possession.
As such, cases of gun violence are rare in China. But, while China does manage to limit casualties caused by mass indiscriminate attacks with its laws on guns, it has failed to address the root causes of such indiscriminate acts of violence.
As the examples above would show, every time a mass stabbing incident comes to light in China, the suspect is found to be mentally unfit or seeking revenge against a group of people or society itself.
Sometimes, these incidents are brutal enough to spark a major conversation, particularly when children are targeted. But the official response is always seen to be muted. Official reports quickly point to a vague grudge or condition that can immediately explain away the crime and then the suspect is taken away to face ‘justice’ in a less than transparent criminal system.
But what gets left out in seeking quick and easy explanations is an exploration of underlying issues which prompts such acts of random and brutal violence.
Though Chinese society faces a highly sophisticated level of surveillance, general access to mental healthcare facilities remains woefully limited. Even when such services exist, there is an attached stigma in availing them.
But much like in America where gun violence has underlying issues that politicians consider ‘uncomfortable’ to discuss, China’s string of mass stabbings also shows a tendency of prioritising a narrative that assigns little to no blame for such incidents on society or, more importantly, the government.
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