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Chinese police suspect man who stabbed 23 kids 'influenced' by doomsday rumor

Just hours before the Newtown, Conn., massacre, a man stabbed 23 children in a rural Chinese elementary school. 

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Chinese police said Monday that the man who stabbed 23 children in a rural Chinese elementary school just hours before the Newtown, Conn., massacre may have been “influenced” by doomsday predictions.

A belief that the Mayan calendar predicts an apocalypse this Friday, Dec. 21, has gained peculiar currency here. And the knifing spree is the darkest manifestation yet of how end-of-the-world rumors have taken hold in China.

Doomsday rumors, generally lighthearted spoofs, have been especially widespread on the Chinese Internet since the success of the Hollywood blockbuster “2012.” That was the first major American film to portray the Chinese as “good guys,” builders of “arks” that offer salvation to some survivors of a cataclysmic flood. But Chinese authorities, nervous about threats to social stability, have been showing increasing signs of concern about the public's willingness to believe the rumors.

Police and government media are warning people not to be fooled by doomsday-related scams, alleged doomsday cultists have been arrested, and shoppers fearful of coming darkness have bought up all the candles they can find.

Police in Guangshan county, in the central Chinese province of Henan, said they were holding the suspect, Min Yongjun, in Friday’s school stabbings “for further investigation into his motives” and medical history, according to an announcement on the local government’s website.

The police “suspect” that Mr. Min “injured innocent people and children with a knife because he was influenced by doomsday rumors,” the statement added. None of the wounded children died of their injuries.

Chinese are susceptible to doomsday reports, suggests social psychologist Wei Zhizhong, because “scientific knowledge is still not widespread in China. People have abandoned their traditional mystical relationship with nature, but they are still exploring scientific ways of coexisting” with the natural world.

Lost in the transition, says Mr. Wei, a researcher at Wuhan University’s Psychological Research Institute, “some people respond to things like doomsday rumors.” 


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