china knife attack
© Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty ImagesSecurity staff at a school in Beijing: guards have been posted in schools across China after a spate of attacks
A man with a knife slashed 22 children and one adult outside an elementary school in Henan province Friday morning, the worst such incident in more than a year.

The attack was reminiscent of a spate of knife attacks on schoolchildren that took place across China in 2010. In most cases, the attackers were unemployed middle-aged men, leading to speculation that the assaults stemmed from economic and social discontent.

Friday's attack occurred at about 7:40 a.m. as children were arriving outside the gate of Chenpeng Village's Wanquan Elementary School. The suspect, Min Yingjun, 36, allegedly slashed an elderly woman as well as the children. Local propaganda officials said later that Min had a psychological illness.

Pictures uploaded to the Internet by bystanders show family members carrying young children with bandages on their heads. The local reports state that four seriously wounded children were transferred to other hospitals for intensive care.

The scene of the attack lies within the limits of Xinyang City, a mountainous and poor municipality 600 miles south of Beijing. The region is renowned for maojian, a bitter and aromatic green tea grown in the mountains. Xinyang is also known as one of the areas hardest hit by the famine that accompanied Communist Party agricultural policies in the 1950s and 1960s. More recent government policy has encouraged the adult population in rural Henan to migrate to cities to look for employment.

In another incident, a 25-year-old man was arrested Thursday night in Beijing after a series of incidents in which young women were slashed on the subway with a box cutter. The New China News Agency said the young man had recently been jilted by a girlfriend and wanted "revenge on society."

In 2010, nearly 20 children were killed and 50 wounded in a string of copycat incidents around central China. China has strict gun control laws, so knives are the weapon of choice in violent crimes.