The state news agency in China, the official voice of the government, has called for the United States to quickly adopt stricter gun controls in the aftermath of the shooting rampage in Connecticut that left 28 people dead, including 20 schoolchildren.
According to the state medical examiner who was overseeing autopsies of the children, all of them had been hit multiple times. At least one child had been shot 11 times.
All of the children were in the first grade.
“Their blood and tears demand no delay for U.S. gun control,” said the news agency, Xinhua, which listed a series of shootings this year in the United States.
“However, this time, the public feels somewhat tired and helpless,” the commentary said. “The past six months have seen enough shooting rampages in the United States.”
China suffered its own school tragedy on Friday — a man stabbed 22 children at a village elementary school in Henan Province. An 85-year-old woman also was stabbed.
There were no fatalities, although Xinhua reported that some of the children had had their fingers and ears cut off. The attacker, a 36-year-old man, was reportedly in custody. There was no immediate explanation for his possible motives.
On Sunday, the Web site China Smack compiled a range of comments on Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like service in China. One said: “They should issue a bulletproof vest to every American elementary school student as their school uniform.”
Another comment related to President Obama fighting back tears while addressing the nation on Friday:
In the face of Henan children suffering harm, did our country’s leaders shed a tear!? Why is it that when this kind of incident happens, they always pretend to be deaf and mute!? I’m not saying that our leaders have to be like Obama shedding tears, but can we at least be like others in facing the incident? Instead of the mainstream media not even covering it, hiding it, attempting to avoid it every time the country has a “special incident.”
China experienced a spate of attacks on schoolchildren in 2010, with almost 20 deaths and more than 50 injuries. In the fourth of the assaults, a crazed man beat five toddlers with a hammer, then set himself on fire while holding two youngsters.
In another of those attacks in 2010, Zheng Minsheng, 42, stabbed and killed eight primary school students in Fujian Province. Five weeks later, after a quick trial, he was executed.
My colleague Michael Wines reported at the time: “Some news reports stated that Mr. Zheng had mental problems, but most state media said no such evidence existed. Mental illness remains a closeted topic in modern China, and neither medication nor modern psychiatric treatment is widely used.”
“Most of the attackers have been mentally disturbed men involved in personal disputes or unable to adjust to the rapid pace of social change in China,” The Associated Press reported Saturday, adding that the rampages pointed to “grave weaknesses in the antiquated Chinese medical system’s ability to diagnose and treat psychiatric illness.”
Private ownership of guns — whether pistols, rifles or shotguns — is almost unheard of in China. Handgun permits are sometimes (but rarely) given to people living in remote areas for protection against wild animals.
The Chinese school assaults were carried out with knives, kitchen cleavers or hammers, the usual weapons of choice in mass attacks in China. As a precaution before the recent Communist Party Congress in Beijing, the sale of knives was banned in the central area of the capital.
Dr. Ding Xueliang, a sociologist at the University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong, speaking about the Chinese tragedy on Friday, told CNN that “the huge difference between this case and the U.S. is not the suspect, nor the situation, but the simple fact he did not have an effective weapon.
“In terms of the U.S., there’s much easier availability of killing instruments — rifles, machine guns, explosives — than in nearly every other developed country.”
In a blog on the Web site of The New Yorker, the magazine’s China correspondent, Evan Osnos, wrote:
It takes a lot to make China’s government — beset, as it is, by corruption and opacity and the paralyzing effects of special interests — look good, by comparison, in the eyes of its people these days. But we’ve done it.
When Chinese viewers looked at the two attacks side by side, more than a few of them concluded, as one did that, “from the look of it, there’s no difference between a ‘developed’ country and a ‘developing’ country. And there’s no such thing as human rights. People are the most violent creatures on earth, and China, with its ban on guns, is doing pretty well!”
Japan, too, has a near-total ban on private gun ownership, and the infrequent mass attacks there — which included a tragic rampage at a primary school in 2001— typically have involved knives.
“Almost no one in Japan owns a gun,” said Max Fisher, writing in The Atlantic in July. “Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country’s infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgo guns; the few exceptions tend to become big national news stories.”
In 2006, Japan had two gun-related homicides. “And when that number jumped to 22 in 2007,” Mr. Fisher said, “it became a national scandal.”
“East Asia, despite its universally restrictive domestic gun policies, hosts some of the world’s largest firearm exporters and emerging industry giants: China, South Korea and Japan,” according to GunPolicy.org, a comprehensive global database maintained by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney.
In recent weeks, Chinese police officials in Jiangsu Province seized more than 6,000 illegal guns from two underground workshops and warehouses; a retired prison guard in Hong Kong was jailed for 18 months for keeping an arsenal of guns, silencers, grenades and thousands of rounds of ammunition in his public-housing apartment; and 17 suspected gun smugglers went on trial in Shanghai as part of a joint investigation with U.S. law enforcement officials.
In the Shanghai case, more than 100 semiautomatic handguns, rifles, shotguns and gun parts were express-mailed to China from the United States. One of the masterminds on the American end was Staff Sgt. Joseph Debose, 30, a soldier with a Special Forces National Guard unit in North Carolina. He pleaded guilty to federal charges in September.
“The defendant traded the honor of his position in the National Guard for the money he received for smuggling arms to China,” said Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “In blatant disregard for everything he was sworn to uphold, the defendant placed numerous firearms into a black market pipeline from the United States to China.”