At least five men rampaged across a college campus wounding 13 students, including one whose hand they chopped off.

The attack in Haikou, the capital of the southern island province of Hainan, comes after a recent rash of knife violence at Chinese elementary schools.

Eighteen people, mostly children, have died in the attacks over the past two months, sparking fears for public safety in China, a country not known for violent crime.

The pre-dawn attack on Wednesday occurred on the campus of the Hainan Institute of Science and Technology while the campus lights were out, local media reported.

Four students were wounded after midnight. Another nine were attacked in a campus dormitory at 2.30am.

One student in the room said that the attackers were unknown but said that he and his roommates had been in a scuffle with some people at a restaurant at midnight.

Police arrived at about 3am and two students were taken to the Haikou Municipal People's Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

On Monday a 35-year-old woman in southern China's Guangdong province became the eighteenth knife victim. Tough Chinese gun laws have made knives the weapon of choice in violent attacks.

Schools across China have tightened security to prevent what experts believe are copycat attacks by individuals disgruntled at being left behind by decades of economic growth and stressed by the mental impact of rapid changes in the country.

Sociologists attribute the attacks, mostly by men in their thirties or forties, using knives and hammers, to a failure to diagnose and treat mental illness. At least three of the attackers had histories of mental health problems.

In the school assaults two of the attackers committed suicide, one was tried and executed and another was sentenced to death on Saturday.