Chemical Attack in China

Angela McKinzie ’21, Assistant News Editor

While America remembered and thanked Veterans for their unwavering, patriotic service to this country, China was bracing for the effects of another attack on children—this time with chemicals. 

On November 11th, fifty-one children and three teachers were all sprayed with caustic soda in Kaiyuan City during the afternoon. According to the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this chemical agent can cause “irritation to the eyes, skin, and mucous membrane; an allergic reaction; eye and skin burns; and temporary loss of hair.” Fortunately, none of the students or children sustained life-threatening injuries, but three of the victims were “seriously hurt,” according to the report from state media on Tuesday. An hour after the attack, the Kaiyuan police arrested a 23-year-old man for the crime. 

And the motive for this heinous act? According to the police, he wanted “revenge on society.” 

This episode of violence is just one of several attacks against the most innocent and vulnerable in China, with other mass killings dating back to nearly a decade ago in 2010. From 2010-2012, China thought they saw the worst of school-related attacks with approximately 130 who were injured but survived and 35 deaths, with these statistics being taken from four attacks that happened in just those two years alone. In the aftermath, the Minister of Education promised to tighten security in schools and give each school one guard per school by 2013 as one way to try and prevent these attacks from happening. Despite this effort, China still saw brutal crimes in schools in the years to follow. More recently, in April of last year, nine students were killed at a middle school in Shaanxi Province, with the 28-year-old attacker being sentenced to death. In October of the same year, a woman attacked a kindergarten in the central city of Chongqing slashing at least 14 children. 

All of these vicious attacks tie back to the epidemic of untreated mental illness and the political climate in China’s society at the moment. Under the current President Xi Jinping, China has experienced instability in its economy and citizens rapid social and political changes trump any notion of peace in the nation. 

 One of the most notable issues that involve America and China alike surround trade and the protests in Hong Kong. What makes Hong Kong so special and the topic of discussion is the fact that it was a colony of Britain up until 1997, where now it is back to China; as a result, the region is ruled under the “one country, two systems” arrangement, which gives the citizens more rights and has autonomy separate from the system that exists all throughout China. The extradition bill introduced in Hong Kong would not allow the city to become a “haven for suspected criminals”; however, people are concerned that this bill will leave citizens open to arrests that go against the Chinese government and leave Hong Kong citizens, foreign residents, and even tourists victim to charges in the legal system in the mainland. This fear of China affecting the economy and more liberties associated with Hong Kong sparked these protests and civil unrest in the great nation. 

On top of the Hong Kong protests, the leadership of the country has been in question by onlookers into the economy and government as more and more instances of citizen oppression and the elevation of leadership persona shape the onslaught of violence and discord. Even though past leaders such as Deng Xiaoping have tried to further China from the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and open the country to new possibilities, Xi wants to bring the party-state back into national life and has had some influences from the Maoist era, the period of rule from the tyrant Mao Zedong. The intolerance of intellectual freedoms, silencing of feedback from the people to the government, the condemnation of an open society and economy to the world, and the banishment of fixed term limits and enforced retirement rules all color Xi’s rule and strikes fear into the Chinese citizens as they navigate life under a domineering, dogmatic leader.  

With the conflicting, restless nature of China right now, it acts as a catalyst for such traumatic and cruel attacks on society and the lives taken by those who feel something has been taken from them themselves. As said by Robert Foyle Hunwick, a journalist for The New Republic, “it [China] has become a pressure cooker. Few valves are permitted to release the rage and insecurity of the masses…” 

Now more than ever, we must send our prayers to the citizens of China as well as the children affected by this chemical attack and the events prior. Let us hope that they venture forward in peace and justice as decisions are made to change their future.