A man has killed six people, three of them young children, and injured a seventh in a knife attack at a kindergarten in southern China.
The 25-year-old began his rampage in the town of Lianjiang, in Guangdong province, at 7.40am local time on Monday, police said.
The victims included one teacher, two parents and three children, Agence-France Presse reported, citing a local government spokesperson. The attacker has been detained and an investigation is under way.
Authorities revealed few other details. Police and local officials declined to comment when contacted by the Guardian. But the attack sparked anger online, with news of the tragedy at one point the most-read item on the Chinese internet.
By the end of Monday more than 400 million people had read about the deaths on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, and many responded with demands for the attacker to face the death penalty.
“Please immediately carry out the death penalty! Those who wave a butcher’s knife at kindergarten kids are the lowest of cowards, scum of society. They deserve the most brutal punishment!” said one user with the name God’s Eagle, who has 2.5m followers.
The deaths are the latest in a string of killings at Chinese schools and childcare centres dating back more than a decade.
Owing to gun laws, attackers have used knives, cleavers, hammers and homemade explosives to kill dozens of people and injure hundreds more.
In 2010, China’s the then-premier Wen Jiabao went on TV after the first spate of attacks to promise better security at schools as well as stronger efforts by government efforts to tackle underlying social problems that may lead to mass murder.
However, similar attacks have continued for years, including most recently in August at a kindergarten in south-eastern Jiangxi province, where an attacker killed three and injured six others.
In 2021, a man armed with a knife killed two children and injured 16 at a kindergarten in Guangxi, and in the same province in 2020 another assailant stabbed 37 children and two teachers as they arrived at school, though all of them survived.
Some commentators are calling for better protection outside schools. “In recent years, there have been many incidents of individuals armed with knives targeting kindergartens,” wrote one user in Jiangsu province.
“Most kindergartens employ elderly men with no capacity to fight as ‘security guards’, so they are not able to ensure the safety of children. It is hoped that this issue will receive attention, and genuine security guards, who are young, strong, and professionally trained, can be employed instead.”
Additional reporting from Tzu-Wei Liu