Chinese state media’s failure to properly report an attack on a school in central China — on the same day as last week’s Newtown massacre in Connecticut — is sparking online criticism of official media, with commentators asking why the lives and well-being of Chinese children did not merit prominent coverage.
State news outlets gave extensive coverage of the Newtown shooting on December 14, but hardly referred to a crazed attacker’s rampage at a school in Henan the same day, in which 23 children were hurt.
“On the same day as the US shooting, 23 children were slashed at the school in Henan, but mainstream media were virtually mute on this. Are the lives of Chinese children worthless to them?” Reuters quoted one blogger as protesting, in what it said was one of many such posts.
It said that China Digital Times, a website following social and political developments in China and run by the University of California, was reporting that the Chinese government’s central propaganda department ordered all official media to downplay the Henan attack.
Even the Xinyang Daily, whose circulation area includes the school, devoted a Page 1 story on Monday to lauding the local education system without mentioning the attack.
Chinese officials now say the assailant was “psychologically affected” by doomsday predictions.
Min Yongjun is suspected of going into an elderly woman’s house Friday morning and stabbing her with a kitchen knife. He then allegedly went to a nearby elementary school in Chenpeng village and injured 23 children before being stopped by teachers and police.
He was arrested on suspicion of jeopardizing public security.
A statement from the Guangshan county government said initial investigations found that he was strongly affected by “doomsday rumors.”
Some people believe the Mayan calendar predicts an apocalypse this Friday.
Chinese police have released surveillance video of the stabbing spree.
The video shows dozens of students running out of a gate in panic after a knife-wielding man stormed in, apparently having slashed at a girl along the way.
The video released by local police to state-run China Central Television offers the first images from last Friday’s attack.
Citing local police, the official Xinhua News Agency said Min, driven by doomsday rumors, wanted to “do things to impress the world of his existence” before his death.
Xinhua said Min, 36, has epilepsy but that police believe the man was capable of self-control at the time of the stabbing spree.
It said Min had beaten his parents and daughters on Thursday night, left home and wandered around for the night before he broke into an elderly woman’s house, where he wounded her by stabbing her twice with a kitchen knife.
Min then went to the elementary school around 7 a.m., where some students had arrived early to do cleaning and preparation work, Xinhua said.
In the surveillance video, a man in blue is seen running through an unguarded school gate while chasing after and slashing at a girl, who stumbles but — after the man leaves — stands up, picks up her school bag and walks out of the gate.
Then, dozens of students flee out of the gate before several men armed with brooms walk in. The man in blue later is seen being chased out of the school.
Deputy Principal Li Chuanbao told state-run China News that there were casualties on the stairs because students on higher floors left their classrooms and ran down to check out the stir.
“They didn’t know there was a stabber out there,” Li said.
Li told China News that the attacker stabbed seven first-graders on the first floor.
Xinhua said eight of the 23 students stabbed have been transferred to a hospital in a neighboring province for surgeries for facial wounds so they can have less noticeable scars.