December 19, 2012 / 9:52 AM / 5 years ago

China's own primary school attack prompts soul-searching

BEIJING (Reuters) - As the United States debates its gun laws after the Newtown school massacre, China is doing its own political soul-searching after a shocking knife attack on a Chinese elementary school.

A man (C), waving a knife in his hand, chases a girl (R) as he enters an elementary school in Guangshan county, Henan province, in this still image from a December 14, 2012 surveillance video, released by local police December 18, 2012. Authorities on Monday confirmed the arrest of the 36-year-old Chinese man, Min Yongjun, suffering from epilepsy in connection with last Friday's knife attack at the elementary school. Min burst into an elderly woman's house near the school and stabbed her with a knife before rushing to the school and attacked more than 20 children, according to Ouyang Mingxing, deputy director of the Public Security Bureau of Guangshan County. Video taken December 14, 2012. REUTERS/CCTV via Reuters TV

On the same day as the Newtown shooting, a crazed man broke into a school building in central China, stabbing and slashing 23 pupils in an attack that, although not fatal, lit up the Internet - but barely registered with official state media.

Instead, media gave top coverage to the U.S. shooting and barely mentioned the Henan school attack, a decision that has drawn sharp criticism of the ruling Communist Party’s readiness to reflect on the ills of U.S. society but not on China’s own.

“On the same day as the U.S. shooting, 22 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?” a microblog user wrote in one of many such posts.

According to China Digital Times, a website following social and political developments in China and run by the University of California, the government’s central propaganda department ordered all official media to downplay the Henan attack.

The Internet criticism of official media coverage follows the installation last month of a new Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping, who has signaled a more open style of leadership and told the media not to shy away from focusing on genuine news.

However, last week’s Henan attack has been largely missing from Chinese newspaper and TV reports. The Xinyang Daily, whose circulation area includes the school, devoted its page-one story on Monday to lauding the local education system without mentioning the attack, according to the Global Times newspaper.

The Xinyang paper later apologized for the story.

Reporting by Terril Yue Jones and Sally Huang; Editing by Ron Popeski

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