Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Need to Understand Why

Another random school attack happened today in a private kindergarten in Linchang Village, Shaanxi Province, where seven children and two adults were killed by a man wielding a kitchen cleaver. After committing his bloody crime, Wu Huanming, 48, went home and killed himself. His motive is unclear.

This is the fifth attack on school children in the past three months, with at least 15 killed and dozens injured. These violent and deadly acts are increasing parents' fears and anger that not enough is being done to protect their children.

While security is supposedly being stepped up in schools, particularly at school gates, by having more adults manning the area, that is not directly addressing the issue at hand.

Dahe Bao, a prominent newspaper in Henan Province published a strong editorial on its website, blaming the misbehaviour of officials for causing these attacks.

"After being treated unfairly or being bullied by the authorities, and unable to take revenge on those government departments that are safeguarded by state security forces, killers have to let out their hatred and anger on weaker people, and campuses have become the first choice," said the editorial, with the byline of Shi Chuan.

The paper also criticized the government's attempts to censor news of the recent school attacks, possibly in a bid to downplay any perception of dysfunction in Chinese society. There were unconfirmed reports that the propaganda office forbid domestic media from continuing further coverage of the previous attacks, or exploring why these attacks were occurring.

"Any effort that attempts to maintain social stability by silencing public media is outrageously wrong," it said. "It is undeniable that the media's coverage on these incidents of bloodshed may 'inspire' potential killers, but it will educate more people by raising awareness of self-protection and spur the authorities, and this is the role that media should play in the society."

The government seems to be wanting to sweep these incidents under the carpet and not asking why this is happening and try to prevent these horrific attacks from happening again.

Whenever accidents occur such as the ones in mines or a spate of attacks like these, China does not conduct any thorough investigations or public inquiries to understand why these things happen and what recommendations should be made to avoid the same thing from occurring.

At the same time, the government is further squeezing the existence of civil society groups, like non-governmental organizations or NGOs from doing their work in China.

On Monday AIDS activist Wan Yanhai fled to the United States with his family because he could not handle the pressure government bureaus were putting on him. Tax authorities visited him to make sure his books were correct, and even the fire department came to inspect the offices, in any way to find fault with Wan's operations.

Wan, a former health official, began his work by exposing the outbreak of AIDS in Henan Province in the 1990s because poor people were selling their blood and were infected with dirty needles. He has been advocating for greater AIDS awareness and prevention since.

Then in recent years house churches are being shut down because they are not specifically government approved. The authorities pressure landlords into not renting spaces to these religious groups, who then resort to conducting services in parks and are publicly disrupted by the police.

By clamping down on a civil society, people have fewer places to turn to for help, resources or fulfill spiritual needs. It seems that all the government wants people to do is consume, consume, consume and live in a material world.

Many people are buying into that, particularly young people. But sooner or later they will be wanting more -- more than just the latest designer bag or expensive food. They may ask what is the meaning of life? What are we doing here? And they may be at a loss to understand or accept the situation. Then what?

Whether the government likes it or not, it needs to allow civil society to grow and fill in the holes the authorities don't have services for. Otherwise there may be more random senseless attacks like the one today.

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