Wu owned the two-storey building with a walled, concrete courtyard, adjacent to the kindergarten. He wanted the school to vacate rooms it had rented when its lease ran out in April. The kindergarten owner wanted to keep the school running until the summer. The two men argued over it but no one saw any sign that it might end in violence.
There have been five other attacks on primary schools and kindergartens since March, claiming the lives of 16 children with 70 injured. In each case, the attacker did not know the victims.
China’s Public Security Ministry has responded to the crisis with tighter controls and enhanced security measures as well as a campaign of prevention. Police is also taking into custody more and more “suspects”, media reports say. However, overall surveillance remains inadequate because police is focusing on public schools, leaving private institutions like the Shengshui Temple kindergarten to fend for themselves. For those without deep pockets, this means little or no protection at all.
Meanwhile, ordinary people are left wondering what is behind this wave of violence in which scores of children have been killed in schools in small towns and medium-sized cities, at the hands of middle-aged men who usually take their own lives after the deed.
Prof Yu Jianrong, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told the South China Morning Post that the spate of incidents is a sign of widespread hopelessness in mainland society. Those who were once dissatisfied have now lost all hope.
For him, attackers know they are going to do; they do not “see any hope for the future”. They are not necessarily poor, but “they don't see any hope in a polarised society and” that “is a very serious problem.”
In a society that praises economic achievement, where the justice system does what its political masters want, personal failures and abuses by the powerful can lead to extreme acts of desperation.
Xu Youyu, a former CASS researcher, agreed that hopelessness is widespread among the underprivileged because of rampant and institutionalised social injustice.
However, "we cannot say that because they are unfairly treated by society, they will go and kill children. These killings show that the value of human life is not respected [by the killers] and [their] perspectives are distorted," he said.
For Prof Hu Xingdou, decades of class struggle under Communist ideology and criticism of humanistic concepts had contributed to the brutal killings.