Beijing: A Chinese court sentenced a man to death Saturday for an attack on a school that wounded 29 children and three kindergarten teachers last month.
The attack was one of five major assaults against schoolchildren in the last two months that have left 17 dead and more than 50 hurt.
The Taizhou Intermediate Court in the eastern province of Jiangsu found Xu Yuyuan guilty of attempted murder, the official state Xinhua News Agency reported.
The 47-year-old unemployed Xu told the court he was venting his anger against society in the April 29 attack, the report said. He appealed the death sentence, saying the punishment was too severe considering no one was killed.
Telephones at the court rang unanswered Saturday.
China has ordered tighter security at schools following another school attack Wednesday, the deadliest so far. In that rampage, a man broke into a preschool with a cleaver and killed seven children and two adults. The man was reportedly depressed and suicidal.
The attacks have focused attention on the consequences of ignoring mental illness in modern China, as huge economic inequalities stoke social tensions.
"We are making serious efforts in tackling social tensions, settling disputes and improving local governments' ability to smooth things out," Premier Wen Jiabao told Hong Kong's Phoenix TV late Thursday in the first comments from the country's communist leadership on the attacks.
His apparently unscripted comments on the sidelines of a meeting were played down in official media. China's state-controlled press has avoided discussing the attacks' underlying issues, focusing instead on security measures.
An official said Friday in the future police will open fire on any school attackers.
"If criminals dare to do this kind of thing again, we will act according to criminal law and firearms regulations, and without mercy. Because being tolerant of this kind of crazy criminal behavior is a crime and is irresponsible to millions of people," a spokesman for the public security ministry, Wu Heping, told a news briefing.
The man convicted for the first of the five school attacks, Zheng Minsheng, has been executed already. Zheng killed eight children in a knife attack in the southern province of Fujian on March 23.
Zheng's execution came one day before Xu attacked the school in Taixing — and on the same day that another man, Chen Bingkang, broke into a primary school in the southern province of Guangdong and stabbed 18 students and a teacher. The 33-year-old Chen, a teacher, had been on sick leave because of mental illness.
Experts say China has failed to adequately address the mental health needs of its citizens.
A study in the British medical journal The Lancet last year showed about 173 million Chinese, or 17.5 percent of the population, have some form of mental disorder, ranging from depression to schizophrenia. The vast majority of those people — about 158 million — have never received any kind of professional help.
At least three of the recent attackers had a history of mental health problems. Two committed suicide after carrying out the attacks.
All the attackers have been men in their 30s or 40s. They all used knives and hammers — guns are tightly controlled in China and obtaining them is virtually impossible.
First Published: Saturday, May 15, 2010, 18:05