Parents gather at a local hospital after the attack on their children in Fujian. Photo from China News Service.
This week has been a particularly morbid one for China news-watchers, thanks to a string of grisly murders in the headlines. Heck, we’re still trying to wrap our heads around the bizarre nature of some of these massacres. Even if you’re desensitized enough to think that murders are nothing new, the circumstances of these particular killings are so tragically gruesome that they should shock you into some sort of emotion:
- The Fujian murders: Yesterday morning, eight children were killed and five seriously injured when a man brandishing a 10-inch knife attacked students at the gates of their school in Nanping, Fujian. The attacker randomly grabbed children standing in line — one boy was stabbed to death in front of his mother, who had just dropped him off. Apparently, it all happened in less than a minute, before the knife-wielding man, now identified as former community doctor Zheng Mingsheng, was wrestled down by passers-by and school security guards. Zheng has long been thought to have mental health problems, and was screaming “they don’t allow me to live and drive me crazy. I will not spare them” as he stabbed the children.
- The murdering granny: After decades of marriage, you’d think you’d be safe in your partner’s hands. Sadly, this wasn’t true for a Shanghainese couple in Australia: 98-year-old Tang Ching Yung’s wife of 70 years is accused of murdering him in their Sydney home last week. Clara Tang, 91, was found bloodstained but unhurt in the apartment with her husband’s body, which had received head wounds. Mrs. Tang has been described as a “very, very gentle” person who “wouldn’t hurt a chicken” and “loved her husband deeply”. Reports say that the accused granny has dementia, no recollection of the murder, and remains confused about what is going on. Investigations are ongoing, so it’s yet to be determined whether this is a mental health crime or a crime of passion.
- Cannibalism in Yunnan: This murder story is tragically sickening – a Baoshan man has been arrested on the charge that he murdered two children and devoured their brains as a cure for epilepsy. Wang Zhaoxu is awaiting trial for the deaths of an 11-year-old boy (who went missing on January 23) and a three-year-old girl. Both bodies were found with their heads torn open, their brains missing. Wang was apparently trying a primitive folk remedy that claims to cure epilepsy through the consumption of a mixture of children’s brains with earthworms and ants. His brother-in-law said Wang’s epilepsy had torn his life and marriage apart; we can only imagine the desperation that could lead someone to cannibalism.
- Updates on the Greyhound killer: Reports say that ‘Greyhound murderer’, Chinese immigrant Vince Li, could be released into society in five years. In 2008, Li had stabbed and then decapitated 22-year-old Tim McLean while the victim was asleep on-board a Greyhound bus in Manitoba, Canada. Li was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia and psychotic delusions for which he had never undergone treatment, and thus not held criminally responsible for the murder. He has since been kept in a mental health facility, where his former psychologist says he is recovering faster than initially expected.
There is no doubt that these murders are tragic events. However, these particular cases complicate the issue of punishment, as mental health problems seem to lay at the root of these crimes: the perpetrators have allegedly suffered from dementia, schizophrenia and psychosis. The Fujian tragedy has started up more talk about the lack of mental health care in the country, and debates over how to care for and create awareness of mental health sufferers. China’s ongoing reform of mental health care services is a positive step, although coming too late for the many lives being lost to violent crimes.