Matthew Robertson contributed research.
Chinese officials said they arrested the suspect who allegedly stabbed 23 children in a primary school last Friday, saying that he was “strongly psychologically affected by rumors of the upcoming end of the world,” state-run media reported.
Min Yongjun, “a long-term epilepsy sufferer,” was arrested Monday for the stabbings of the nearly two dozen children and one elderly person in Chenpeng village in Guangshan county, Communist Party mouthpiece Xinhua said. He used a kitchen knife to stab an elderly woman before he ran off to a school to attack the children.
Specifically, state-run media said that Min was influenced by the end of the world predictions associated with the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012.
“I learned from the media two years ago that killing children would get me on TV,” Min said, according to the Communist Party-backed newspaper The Global Times.
Before the attack, Min said that he was locked in his house by his father after he had an epileptic seizure, but eventually fled his house on Thursday night, according to the newspaper.
Referring to the Mayan calendar, Min said that an elderly woman told villagers in his hometown that “the end of the world is coming and the Earth will explode,” according to the paper. Apparently, police attempted to find the woman and detain her but she was gone.
The Xinyang Daily, which is the official newspaper of Guangshan, did not carry a report on the school attack on its front page, but instead published an article that lauded the county’s education sector, drawing condemnation from Chinese netizens.
Netizens also expressed their furor at Guangshan officials, who canceled a news conference about the attack, while local officials made themselves unavailable to the media, according to Radio Free Asia.
After the remarks that end of the year theories may have caused Min to attack the children, some state media reports changed tack and said that it was Eastern Lightning, a Christian sect also known as the Church of Almighty God, that had “lured” him into it, according to a specialist quoted by Beijing News, a major state-run newspaper.
Wu Baxin, a professor at China’s Public Security University, said that Eastern Lightning “is spread widely, has a strongly provocative nature, and deliberately tries to make social chaos, even publicly saying they want to overturn the current regime.” The link between these traits and the school stabbing were not clearly explained, but the sect made headlines recently due to a recent crackdown.
Chinese Netizens rebuked the suggestion that Eastern Lightning—which according to the Christian Research Institute has in fact engaged in the kidnapping and brainwashing of prospective members–was behind Min’s attack on school students. “Is this believable,” a netizen from Beijing commented. “Isn’t this another plot? The other day he slashed kids, now they’re grabbing the evil sect. Isn’t this insulting our intelligence?”
Most Chinese papers carried reports about the Sandy Hook, Connecticut elementary school shooting that killed 20 children and six others.
In recent days, Chinese authorities have tried to crack down on people spreading information about the Mayan calendar date, according to Xinhua. They have arrested at least 93 people.
Health officials said that none of the children who were attacked are in critical condition, with one even running home from school after the incident. Many suffered head injuries and wounds to their fingers and ears.
There has been a spate of attacks that have targeted Chinese children in recent years. In 2010, a knife-wielding man killed nine people, including seven small children. Later, a man killed three kindergartners with a knife.
Many analysts have speculated that growing social problem, anger towards the ruling Communist Party, and the widening gap between the wealthy and poor have increased tensions for ordinary Chinese.
“Those who have genuine psychiatric problems [in China] aren’t getting treatment, while some political dissidents are locked up in mental hospitals by the police and the government,” former Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang told RFA.