Rise in family massacres triggers alarm in China

Rise in family massacres triggers alarm in China

SINGAPORE - A neighbours' dispute over forest ownership in central Jiangxi region's Ganzhou county led to the killing of a family of five on June 2 - a pair of grandparents and three six-year-olds, including a set of twins.

Five days earlier, a 58-year-old woman and her two grandchildren aged four and eight were murdered in coastal Shandong province by a burglar afraid they could identify him.

In China, terror attacks by suspected separatists and random acts of violence by disgruntled individuals often grab headlines, but another form of extreme violence is raising concern - mass killings of families.

In such mie men an, or family massacre cases, the killers wipe out all members of a family, leaving no survivor to identify them or take revenge. No one is spared, not even children.

Going by media reports, there have been at least 16 cases of family massacres since last July when a man in south-western Yunnan province killed his estranged father, stepmother and their eight-year-old daughter. Four cases were reported last month alone.

A previous spate of eight family massacres from late 2009 to April 2010 pales in comparison. Renmin University criminologist Li Meijin, who has studied family massacres, says increased media attention on these tragedies is a key reason for the rise. Others pointed to the "copycat effect" from intensified media coverage.

Analysts also note differences in the latest spree compared to the earlier one.

First, while most of the perpetrators in the 16 cases were known to the victims, being family members, neighbours or ex-lovers, there were more cases involving strangers.

Also, 11 of the 16 cases took place after the Chinese New Year, which is unusual.

Studies have shown that family massacres tend to occur just before the Chinese New Year, when migrant workers return home and find that their partners have cheated on them or their children have grown cold towards them; or when creditors try but fail to recover bad debts.

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