As America struggles with gun violence, China faces its own public safety threat: mass stabbings

People lay flowers at the site of a stabbing that left 6 pedestrians dead and 14 wounded in the Chinese city of Anqing on June 6, 2021.

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As the United States routinely faces the tragedy of mass shootings, China is struggling to put an end to its own threat to public safety: indiscriminate stabbings.
Over the weekend, six people were killed and 14 injured after a knife-wielding man stabbed passersby on a pedestrian shopping street in the eastern Chinese city of Anqing. Videos circulating on social media show wounded pedestrians lying on the pavement, covered in blood.
    Police quickly arrived at the scene and arrested the suspect, a 25-year-old unemployed man who was seeking to "vent anger over family troubles and pessimism," according to a local government statement.
      The incident is the latest among a spate of public attacks in China in recent months. With guns strictly controlled and out of reach for ordinary people, knives have become the most common weapon used in such atrocities.
      In April, two children were killed when a knife-wielding man entered a kindergarten in southern China. An additional 14 children and two teachers were wounded, according to state news agency Xinhua. The police said the suspect had a history of schizophrenia -- a serious mental illness characterized by symptoms of psychosis.
      In December, another mass stabbing in a small city in northeastern Liaoning province left seven people dead and another seven injured. State media reported the 62-year-old suspect was socially withdrawn after losing his son and getting divorced, and carried out the attack to express his "dissatisfaction towards society."
        These incidents have stood out in China, which boasts a powerful and ubiquitous surveillance system and comparatively low rates of violent crime. According to the World Bank, citing the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's International Homicide Statistics database, in 2018, there were 0.5 intentional homicides per 100,000 people in China -- one tenth of the murder rate in the US.
        And unlike the US, gun violence is rare in China, where the regulation on firearms is among the strictest in the world. Chinese law generally prohibits private possession of firearms (except for hunters with permits), and the Chinese government has stepped up its policing of illegal firearms in recent years.
        According to the most recently available statistics from China's Ministry of Public Security, there were just 58 cases of gun crime in the country in 2017, an 82% drop from 2012.
        Chinese state media has often highlighted mass shooting incidents in the US, and in some cases even characterized it as a human rights issue on which "the US should learn from China."
        But while China's strict control on guns has sharply reduced the number of casualties in public attacks, it has seemingly failed to address the root causes that repeatedly trigger these types of tragedies.
        According to official announcements, the suspects were often found to have been living with mental illness, or were seeking revenge against their employers, officials, or the wider society.
        In China, public access to mental health services remains limited, partially due to a shortage of qualified mental care professionals. Social stigma surrounding mental disorders also discourages many people from seeking help.

        Around Asia

        • An estimated 100,000 people in Myanmar's Kayah state had been displaced by fighting that included "indiscriminate attacks by security forces" in civilian areas, the United Nations said Sunday.
        • Thailand began its mass Covid vaccination program Monday, following criticism of delays and concerns over health authorities relying on AstraZeneca shots produced by a company owned by the country's king.
        • Dozens of passengers were killed and several others injured after a train collision in so